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Three Big Takeaways: Iowa State moves on thanks to miracle comeback

Jacob Rice
Tamin Lipsey scans the court looking for on open teammate during the ISU vs. Grambling State men’s basketball game, Hilton Coliseum, Nov. 19, 2023.

The Cyclones nearly exited the ESPN Events Invitational earlier than expected, as a poor first half performance was almost too much to come back in the 68-64 win over VCU.

The Cyclones could not put together a consistent offensive presence throughout the contest, while VCU hit shots left and right. It was not until later that a pair of Cyclones took the game into their own hands to lead a late game charge and come back from a double-digit deficit.

Ice cold shooting plagues Cyclones early on

With Iowa State going into the matchup as the favorites, it was an unexpected surprise when VCU sprinted out ahead early on.

The Rams scored the first five points of the match, as Iowa State answered back with just two points of its own. From that point on, another basket was not made by either team for nearly three minutes.

Iowa State was shooting less than 20% from the field at the first timeout. The only thing keeping Iowa State within reach of VCU despite the early offensive struggles was turnovers on the other end of the court.

Robert Jones was the Cyclone to get Iowa State moving in the right direction. Jones knocked down a big energy dunk to help Iowa State finish a 7-0 run and take its first lead of the night.

From that point on, the Cyclones were back in the game. Iowa State even got back up to around 40% shooting from the field. However, the struggles were not done there.

With Iowa State marching back into the game, the shooting struggles came back in full force.

VCU was not running away with the game, but the Rams did keep a lead through most of the first half with Iowa State missing nearly every shot from the court.

With just seven minutes left in the half, Iowa State was back under 20% shooting, hitting just three shots on 19 attempts. Along with the lack of scoring from anywhere but the charity stripe, the Cyclones only attempted and missed two 3-pointers, which fed into a five-minute scoring drought.

Iowa State’s defense was playing as expected, but the offense could not get anything to fall. It took Iowa State eight minutes to finally see the ball fall through the net, as Keshon Gilbert made a trip to the free-throw line. However, at that point, VCU had doubled Iowa State’s points.

The Cyclones ended the first half finally breaking their shooting slump, as Jones was the first player to score from the field in nearly 12 minutes. Jones ended the half leading the team in scoring with eight points.

Hometown hero saves the day

With Iowa State trailing by double-digits late in the first half, someone needed to spark the offense. The player that gave the Cyclones a sign of life was Tamin Lipsey.

Lipsey hit Iowa State’s first three of the night with time running out in the half. Shortly after, Lipsey forced a turnover and got one more chance to run the offense before the half.

Tamin Lipsey shoots a free throw during the Iowa State vs. Grambling State men’s basketball game, Hilton Coliseum, Nov. 19, 2023. (Jacob Rice)

Lipsey got the offense moving with eight seconds left. With the buzzer ready to ring, Lipsey got the ball back in his hands and put up a shot from deep. As the buzzer rang, the ball sunk through the net; Iowa State cut VCU’s lead to single digits going into the half.

Lipsey hit double-digits entering the second half. From that point on, it was all Lipsey on offense.

Not only was Lipsey finding his shot from the field, he was getting to the foul line. Lipsey was leading the team in free-throw attempts halfway through the second half.

With Iowa State approaching a comeback, Lipsey was also approaching the 20-point mark. He was also the only Cyclone finding success from beyond the arc.

Lipsey was the only Cyclone throughout the night with a 3-pointer. Lipsey’s heroics bled into the second half, as Iowa State looked for a comeback, which proved to be tougher than expected.

Gilbert and Lipsey: The comeback kids

Things looked grim for the Cyclones at the end of the first half. Although they had cut the lead to nine points, VCU did not let off the gas in the second half.

It was not until halfway through the final half that Iowa State started to hit its groove. Shots were falling, the defense was getting stops and VCU was starting to cool off a bit.

By the 12-minute mark, the Cyclones had already hit more shots than they had in the entire first half. As Gilbert went up for another contested shot, the Cyclones cut the lead from over 10 to just three points.

However, things were about to switch fast. The plague from the first half reared its ugly head again in the last 10 minutes of the game.

Although the Cyclones cut the lead to one score, shots were about to stop falling. VCU started finding its groove again, while Iowa State could not hit a shot to save its life.

Along with the missed shots, Iowa State was getting sloppy on both ends of the court. The Cyclones were causing unnecessary fouls while turning the ball over on offense.

With seven minutes left, VCU extended its lead back up to 10 points.

Iowa State guard Keshon Gilbert follows Grambling State guard Kintavious Dozier move the ball forward during the Iowa State vs. Grambling State men’s basketball game, Hilton Coliseum, Nov. 19, 2023. (Jacob Rice)

However, Iowa State was not ready to back down yet. Gilbert decided to take the game into his own hands.

Gilbert started scoring from everywhere on the court. He was flying into the rim, picking up fouls and scores.

After a pair of Gilbert free throws, Iowa State cut the lead back to three. With three minutes left, Iowa State had some life.

It was not until a few possessions later that Iowa State took a hold of the reins.

Lipsey picked up a score while getting fouled going to the rim. The Cyclones trailed by one point.

Lipsey missed his free throw, but Iowa State got the rebound. As Curtis Jones received a pass in the paint, he knew who to look for. Jones passed the ball out to Lipsey who was driving in for a score.

Iowa State had its first lead in over 30 minutes off a Lipsey floater. With just over a minute left in the game, Iowa State had control of the game thanks to two players: Lipsey and Gilbert.

Lipsey finished his game with 22 points, four assists and seven rebounds.

Gilbert was the Cyclone to put the nail in the coffin against VCU. With under 30 seconds left in the game, Gilbert took two free throws from the line. He sank them both.

Iowa State had a three-point lead, as Gilbert finished his double-double game with 22 points and 10 rebounds. As VCU took its last-ditch 3-point shot, it fell shy of falling.

Iowa State’s comeback was complete. The Cyclones were moving on.

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