Three Big Takeaways: Cyclones overcome sluggish start to beat North Dakota


Owen Aanestad

Robert Jones looks to score against North Dakota on Nov. 30, 2022.

Andrew Harrington, Sports Editor

Despite a sluggish start, No. 23 Iowa State was able to cling to a 63-44 win over North Dakota.

The game was extremely tight in the first half, with the Cyclones leading just 26-24. A few key contributors brought Iowa State back to life in the second half where they were able to pull away.

Here are the three big takeaways from the battle in Hilton Coliseum.

Fatigue sets in

Iowa State played three games in four days last weekend at the Phil Knight Invitational in Portland, Oregon. Not arriving home until around 6 a.m. on Monday, Jaren Holmes said he has been getting the worst sleep of his entire life.

Head coach T.J. Otzelberger said that although he likes to believe his team can battle through these factors, it can sometimes be unavoidable when the game gets going.

“I hate to admit that that could be a factor, but it probably was,” Otzelberger said. “Certainly multiple guys that are usually very impactful in a positive way for us didn’t have great nights tonight.”

Battling fatigue and building mental toughness is something that Otzelberger has been trying to instill in his team, and Wednesday’s game against North Dakota was

Hason Ward throws down a dunk against North Dakota on Nov. 30, 2022. (Owen Aanestad)

a big one to gauge where they are in that department.

Shots were not falling for the Cyclones in the first half, but a big second half was on the horizon.

Demarion Watson makes presence felt

Freshman Demarion Watson receives continual praise from Otzelberger due to his versatility and ability to guard players of any size.

Watson is not the most prolific scorer for Iowa State; however, he makes up for it with his rebounding and defensive ability.

Watson racked up 10 rebounds (4 offensive) in just 21 minutes. Watson also picked up a steal and a block in the game.

“He really stepped up,” Otzelberger said. “It’s awesome to see a guy that makes all those effort plays.”

Grill does it again

When all other options could not make a basket, the Cyclones went back to the player that salvaged the team a win over No. 1 North Carolina on Friday: Caleb Grill.

Grill scored 16 points on 6-9 shooting including 4-5 from three. Grill made four of Iowa State’s seven threes and was the lone player getting it done from beyond the arc on Wednesday. 

Outside of Grill’s makes, Iowa State shot just 3-11 from deep.

Grill was getting it done on both ends of the court, snatching three steals and five rebounds on the game.

It is no secret that these live-ball turnovers are a key to success for any team, and when the Cyclones are struggling to score, it becomes even more valuable.
“It gives us more energy on the defensive end,” Grill said. “Then, getting an easy look on the offensive end helps jumpstart our offense.”

Grill also said that this helps jumpstart the crowd, which the Cyclones needed during a previously sluggish performance.

Next up for the Cyclones is a matchup with St. John’s at 2 p.m. Sunday in Hilton Coliseum.