‘We didn’t see it go through the hoop enough’: Iowa State falls to Pitt in first round


Jacob Rice

Jaren Holmes at the 2023 Big 12 Tournament Semifinals versus Kansas in the T-Mobile Center, Mar. 10.

Payne Blazevich, Sports Reporter

Iowa State’s season came to an end after falling short against 11-seeded Pitt in the Round of 64 Friday afternoon. 

Key shots and a strong defensive presence sparked a late first-half comeback, but the Cyclones couldn’t maintain their momentum. The Panthers dominated the second half, closing out the matchup 59-41.  

For a moment, Iowa State seemed to be creating a little magic in the first round of the NCAA Tournament, but two cold opens to each half prevented the Cyclones from overtaking Pitt’s early lead. 

“I feel like our guys were working really hard to try to get great opportunities and their effort was good,” Iowa State head coach T.J. Otzelberger said. “We didn’t see it go through the hoop enough.” 

From the opening tip, Iowa State struggled to put the ball in the basket

The Cyclones failed to connect on a field goal for the first 10 minutes of the half, with a layup from guard Jaren Holmes breaking the scoring drought with 9:54 left in the first. Holmes and his teammates were limited around the rim, and couldn’t find a way to hit shots from long-range. 

While the Cyclones found trouble scoring, Pitt started off hot. The Panthers knocked down three triples, while also putting up points in the paint and finding ways to reach the free throw line.

Iowa State’s defense held Pitt to 30 points in the first half, but the team couldn’t respond with made shots on the other end. Just as the game seemed to be slipping away, however, Iowa State’s offense caught fire. 

“We’re a team that prides ourselves on defense, and one thing [Otzelberger] has instilled in us is whenever our offense isn’t falling, take pride on the defensive end to get us going naturally on offense,” forward Tre King said. 

Shots from Holmes and guard Gabe Kalscheur, along with takeaways forced by guard Tamin Lipsey, helped Iowa State cut the deficit to five points. Pitt led by as much as 20 points in the first half, but the Cyclones entered the locker room down seven. 

The burst of energy wasn’t replicable, though. Iowa State faced similar offensive struggles to start the second half, only scoring two field goals in the first 10 minutes – both coming from Kalscheur. 

Iowa State finished the game shooting 23.3% from the field, including 2/21 from beyond the arc. Kalscheur and Holmes both put up 12 points for the Cyclones, while King followed behind with 11.

Unlike the first half, the Cyclones couldn’t rediscover the offensive rhythm that cut the deficit to single digits. As the second half carried on, Pitt’s lead continued to grow. 

“It just wasn’t going in, and sometimes that happens,” Kalscheur said. “We kinda wish we had that one back and wish our offense was going smoothly.” 

With 4:47 to go in the matchup, the Panthers led Iowa State by 20 points again, pushing the lead to 22 points with just over a minute remaining. The Cyclones never found a way to build any offensive momentum, only breaking the 40-point mark in the final 21 seconds.

It was one of Iowa State’s worst offensive performances of the season, and it came at the most inopportune time for the Cyclones. The 2023 NCAA Tournament showing was less lucrative for Iowa State than the team’s previous run under Otzelberger. 

The Cyclones reached the Sweet 16 in 2022, finding a way to hit shots at the right time. This season, an inability to put the ball in the basket sent the team packing early.

“Really proud of our guys and how they continued to fight, it just wasn’t our best today,” Otzelberger said.