No. 19 Iowa State bringing physicality to match-up with Creighton

Tyrese Hunter defends the rim against Arkansas Pine-Bluff on Dec. 1 in Hilton Coliseum.

Matt Belinson

If No. 19 Iowa State has its way with Creighton on Saturday, it’s going to be a battle of physicality.

That’s the message Iowa State Head Coach T.J. Otzelberger and his 7-0 Cyclones want to play with in the undefeated Cyclones’ first true road game of the season against the Bluejays.

After a 19-point, yet disappointing, win over Arkansas Pine-Bluff on Wednesday, Iowa State got back to the practice court and got back to the attitude, effort and intensity the team expects of itself. And come Saturday in Omaha, physicality has to lead the charge for the Cyclones to get the job done.

“We’ve tried to spend a lot more focus on how we guard the basketball, especially in transition because we didn’t do a great job the other night and that’s going to be pivotal as we play Creighton who’s really effective in transition,” Otzelberger said.

Iowa State has prided itself on intense ball pressure against its opponents, turning opposing teams over 15+ times in six of the team’s seven wins. That pressure doesn’t start without intense want-to, along with a commitment to principles that have vaulted the Cyclones into the top-20 ahead of their Big 12/Big East Battle.

If the Cyclones can bring improved effort and execution on the defensive end, compared to Wednesday when the Golden Lions shot 48 percent and scored 42 points in the second half, Gabe Kalscheur is confident in their chances against the Bluejays.

Similar to the Cyclones, transition offense and applying pressure are staples of what Creighton wants to do on a given night, and Kalscheur said Iowa State has to get back on defense quickly and communicate much better than Wednesday night.

“They like to run-and-gun a lot,” Kalscheur said. “They don’t like a lot of physicality so we just gotta continue to uphold our physicality we have on defense and offense.”

The similarities between the Cyclones and Bluejays come about with deep Iowa State ties on Creighton. The Bluejays head coach is Greg McDermott, who was at Iowa State from 2006-10 as head coach of the Cyclones.

McDermott hired Otzelberger as an assistant coach throughout his time in Ames, giving the current head coach of the Cyclones his start at the high-major level. Saturday will be a chance for Otzelberger to face his mentor and friend in McDermott.

“I’m very grateful,” Otzelberger said about his relationship with McDermott. “Have a lot of loyalty and allegiance to him because he took a chance on me here when I was 27 years old.”

George Conditt IV is looking forward to getting back in a rowdy environment with a true road crowd after traveling for road matchups with little to no crowd to speak of.

The senior forward for the Cyclones has seen an up-tick in production in recent games, especially on the offensive boards. Conditt has played at least 17 minutes in his last three games, posting at least three offensive rebounds during that stretch. 

The big-man for Iowa State has been leaned on by Otzelberger in the post recently, and Conditt said Saturday will be another game where he needs to be on-point. 

Conditt said the Bluejays not only align with the Cyclones in pace of play, but also feature a roster of mostly newcomers with a few returners sprinkled in.

“Making sure we’re locked in on everything we do defensively,” Conditt said of what the Cyclones need to do on Saturday.

Iowa State (7-0) and Creighton (7-1) tip off at 8 p.m. Saturday on FS1.