Cyclones taking successes and moving forward as they face North Dakota


Tyler Coe

Aljaz Kunc shoots a corner 3 against Milwaukee on Nov. 20, 2022.

After an emotional week at the Phil Knight Invitational, Iowa State men’s basketball will return to Ames Wednesday evening to take on North Dakota.

After a thrilling 70-65 win over No.1 North Carolina Friday, the Cyclones were given the opportunity to compete in the championship game of the Phil Knight Invitational against the then-ranked No. 20 University of Connecticut (UCONN).

Although the game did not end in a championship win, the Cyclones were placed at No. 23 in the college men’s basketball AP poll. The UCONN Huskies were bumped up to No. 8, while the Tarheels of North Carolina dropped to No. 18.

Many lessons were learned from the team’s time in Portland, Oregon. Head coach T.J. Otzelberger said he learned the stubbornness of his offense.

“We’ve got to be very intentional offensively about what we can do to be successful,” Otzelberger said.

Being able to balance the offense out being different teams is also a learning experience for the Cyclones.

“I think we can even continue to be more stubborn so we can get to the foul line at a higher rate,” Otzelberger said. “That would benefit our offense as well.”

After two successful wins against two large basketball programs, Otzelberger said he hopes the youthful team has gained the confidence and belief that hard work pays off.

“Our brand of basketball is about toughness, it’s about physicality,” Otzelberger said. “It’s doing all the things that are effort based that are hard to do.”

Ozelberger said there isn’t any other formula to the team’s success other than staying committed and getting up each morning to put in the work.

Senior guard Caleb Grill had a career-high in points (31) against North Carolina Friday. While Grill can be a perfectionist and hard on himself at times, Otzelberger said they are working with Grill on staying in the moment, something that occurred during the game against North Carolina.

“It’s our job to collaborate on that and recreate that as often as we can…now he [Grill] knows what that felt like and the things he did to prepare for it, and now we need to replicate it,” Otzelberger said.

Grill said he is working on turning the negative into positive as quickly as possible. Against North Carolina, Grill said he took the opportunities that we’re given and felt good about each shot he took.

Aside from Grill, every player is involved offensively. While it may change from game to game, Otzelberger said looking at the strengths of the group is an important aspect.

Additionally, the Cyclones’ defense can also bring success, and Otzelberger said there isn’t a lot of variation in the team’s defense.

“No matter how you play on offense, if you bring it every night on the defensive end you’ll be in every game,” Grill said.

North Dakota will come into Hilton Coliseum with a 5-3 record. However, the Fighting Hawks are currently on a three-game win streak after wins over the University of Wisconsin-Stout, Utah Tech and Cal State.

Otzelberger said North Dakota is a better team than they were earlier in the year and that they move the ball and shoot the ball well.

“We need to turn the page,” Otzelberger said. “We need to get onto what’s next.”

The game will begin at 7 p.m. and will be streamed on ESPN+.