Three Big Takeaways: Grill cooks No. 1 North Carolina in thrilling win


Tyler Coe

Caleb Grill throws it down with authority against Milwaukee on Nov. 20, 2022.

Andrew Harrington, Sports Editor

Iowa State basketball rode Caleb Grill’s 31 points to take down No. 1 North Carolina 70-65 in the Phil Knight Invitational and improve to 5-0 on the young season.

With Iowa State pushing for a win against the No. 1 team in the AP Poll for only the third time in school history, the two teams put up an instant classic out in Oregon.

T.J. Otzelberger had not lost a non-conference regular season game in his short time at Iowa State, coming into the year with a 13-0 non-conference record, and starting off 4-0 in the 2022-23 season.

This streak was increased on Friday, and it was done in a thrilling fashion.

Grill gets cooking

Grill has not been the most consistent shooter in his Cyclone career, but with the state of the team’s offense in the last few years, they rely heavily on his shooting.

Grill had struggled mightily in the early season, shooting just 4-24 from three in the team’s first four games. Iowa State was able to sneak away with each of these games; however, with the competition beginning to increase, Grill needed to get going.

Grill was able to get the season back on track against the top-ranked team in the country, posting 31 points on 11-15 shooting, including 7-11 on three-point attempts.

Grill can alter both the trajectory of his and the team’s trajectories with strong shooting all season long.

Absolute battle

From start to finish, this was a competitive game. Back-and-forth momentum swings and impressive plays on both ends made for an entertaining game that did not include a double-digit lead.

In a game as tightly contested as this one was, it all came down to how the teams finished, and Iowa State just performed better in the final minutes.

The Cyclones made five of their final six shots and knocked down some big free throws late. With a few late turnovers forced by the defense, Iowa State was able to get the job done.

Although it is early in the season, wins like this can be very important for seeding in the NCAA Tournament, and Iowa State has put themselves in a strong position thus far.

Improved offense

Last season the Cyclones ranked near the top in nearly every defensive statistic and near the bottom in nearly every offensive statistic. This season the Cyclones have vastly improved on the offensive end, allowing them to compete in these games in which the other opponent can score at will.

Iowa State shot 9-20 from three, posting 70 points on one of the most athletic teams in the country. With how solid the defense has been this year, 70 points in going to be enough for Iowa State to get the job done in the vast majority of games.

The Cyclones now await the winner of No. 18 Alabama and No. 20 Connecticut in the championship game of the Phil Knight Invitational on Sunday.