Cyclones find their groove after rocky start


Owen Aanestad

Caleb Grill goes up for a layup against North Dakota on Nov. 30, 2022.

Iowa State men’s basketball returned to Hilton Coliseum Wednesday night to take the North Dakota Fighting Hawks.

The same starting five remained at the start of the game and freshman Tamin Lipsey was the first player to put points up on the board. However, the No. 23 Cyclones seemed to struggle to put up points within the first few minutes.

In the first half, the Cyclones were 2-7 in three-point basketball and 2-6 in free throws. For North Dakota, the shooting percentages weren’t any better as they shot 3-11 on three-pointers.

“This is a tough game turnaround after a big tournament,” Caleb Grill said. “We just have to be better mentally focused.”

It took Iowa State about midway through the first half to get a little more of their groove. Although baskets were not going in as often as hoped, second chance points, along with going on an 8-0 run about 13 minutes in, helped them to stay ahead of North Dakota.

Demarion Watson had seven rebounds in the first half, with four of them being offensive. While Watson did not have any offensive rebounds in the second half, he ended the game with 10 total rebounds.

“Demarion was a huge positive for us tonight,” head coach T.J. Otzelbeger said. “It’s awesome to see a guy who makes all those effort plays.”

First-half stats showed the Cyclones as a whole had 22 rebounds, with 11 of them being offensive, compared to North Dakota’s three offensive rebounds.

Those 11 rebounds helped them gain 11 second-chance points and 18 total points at the end of the game. While the offense struggled, the defense stayed consistent, forcing nine North Dakota turnovers and getting 12 points off of the turnovers.

A consistent defense was a key aspect that Otzelberger had expressed the day before. Otzelberger said while the offense can switch up, the defense is the one thing that the team can continue being persistent on.

As halftime arrived, Iowa State was ahead only by two points, with the score being 26-24.

Tamin Lipsey brings the ball up the floor against North Dakota on Nov. 30, 2022. (Owen Aanestad)

Grill came right out of the gates after the half, making a basket immediately following an assist from Aljaz Kunc.

Grill said that in order to turn it around in the second half, the team had to go back to what they were doing in the summer.

“We just have to bring our habits to it every game,” Grill said. “That’s the first and foremost.”

The rest of the Cyclone offense also seemed to find their momentum as three-point baskets seemed to go in consistently.

“Those are big shots,” Otzelberger said about freshmen Watson and Lipsey making three-pointers.

After keeping it close with the Fighting Hawks throughout the majority of the game, Iowa State’s largest lead of the game occurred with two minutes left in the game as they led 63-44, which also ended up being the final score.

“We came out sluggish, and that’s not acceptable for this program right now,” Grill said. “We have to play like we did the last 20 minutes of the game.”

Out of the highs and lows of the game, the Iowa State defense continued to stay strong.

Iowa State finished the game with 38 rebounds, 15 of them being offensive rebounds. Their points off turnovers improved to 26, with 21 of the total points being from the team’s bench.

Grill led the team in points with 16, and Lipsey had 11. Kunc led the team in assists (6).

The Cyclones will return to Hilton in a few short days as they take on undefeated St. Johns on Sunday.

“We’re focused on having great workouts and great practice tomorrow,” Otzelberger said.