Cyclones play the mental game to frustrate St. John’s


Tyler Coe

Osun Osunniyi pumps up the crowd after a dunk against St. Johns on Dec. 4, 2022.

Andrew Harrington, Sports Editor

AMES — It was scrappy, the teams got into some scuffles, and there was no shortage of hard fouls. No. 23 Iowa State handed St. John’s its first loss with a 71-60 win Sunday.

St. John’s entered the game absolutely rolling with an 8-0 record and a fast-paced offense. The Cyclones knew it was going to take all-out effort on the defensive end, and that is what they provided.

Things got chippy early on, as there were five total technical fouls called in the first half. This scrappy play can deter many teams – but not the Cyclones.

This team takes pride in its ability to frustrate the opponents, and they showcased that on Sunday afternoon.

Osun Osunniyi said there is only one thing on the defense’s mind when the game gets going:

“Frustrate teams,” Osunniyi said.

Osunniyi continued by saying forcing these turnovers brings teams out of their comfort zone, and that is the key for the team to win.

When asked if practices are played with a similar frustration level, Jaren Holmes revealed the practices can often be more physical than the games.

“There’s no fouls,” Holmes said. “We want teams to think twice about driving in the lane.”

Head coach T.J. Otzelberger said while emotions were high on both sides,

The Cyclone bench storms the court after Aljaz Kunc forces an early St. Johns timeout on Dec. 4, 2022. (Tyler Coe)

the Cyclones need to learn to stay composed in those situations so the technical fouls do not offset.

As is the case with many of the games for the Cyclones, the defense stole the show.

St John’s shot just 6-23 in the first half and scored just 22 points in the half. The Cyclones also forced 15 first half turnovers.

The Cyclones did not have a top tier shooting performance either; however, with the defense, they were able to build an 11-point lead at the half.

Getting out to an early lead is one of the biggest factors for Iowa State this season. Otzelberger said despite any preparation you do against a team, oftentimes the beginning of the game can go poorly.

“Especially at Hilton, you can try to simulate it,” Otzelberger said. “It catches you off guard at first.”

The Cyclones were able to get to the free throw line 28 times, making 18 of them.

While the success rate when the team got there was not as high as Otzelberger had hoped, the determination to get the ball inside provided some hope for the Iowa State offense moving forward.

Otzelberger said this is something in the game plan, and he is proud of the way that even the smallest players on the team are not afraid to take it inside.

Next up for the Cyclones is a road matchup against the Iowa Hawkeyes on Thursday.