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Iowa State prepares for first true road test against DePaul

Jacob Rice
Curtis Jones scans the court during the ISU vs. Grambling State men’s basketball game, Hilton Coliseum, Nov. 19, 2023.

After a rocky road trip, the Cyclones will look to right the ship as they face their first true road test against DePaul on Friday night.

Iowa State is coming off a fourth-place finish at the ESPN Events Invitational after going 1-2 in the tournament. The Cyclones entered the tournament with an undefeated record and high hopes of making the finals.

After a slow start against VCU, the Cyclones survived through the first round thanks to a late comeback. However, that slow offense bled over into the semifinal matchup against Virginia Tech, as Iowa State dropped its first game of the season.

The Cyclones looked improved to start their final game of the tournament against Texas A&M but could not hold onto a 21-point lead to drop their second-straight game. Although the result was not ideal, they looked at the tournament as a learning experience and are ready to get back on track.

“We just gotta continue to respond to whatever comes our way in a positive manner and learn from it quickly,” Iowa State head coach T.J. Otzelberger said.

What the Cyclones are working on going into the DePaul game is cleaning up the small mistakes. Otzelberger talked about the issues that cropped up in the tournament and made it clear that the team is working to play sound ball for the entire game.

The Cyclones looked good at times, but they could not string together a full 40 minutes of solid play. Going into an opponent’s territory will present new challenges that may not have arisen at a neutral site, so Iowa State is ready to be on its toes.

“Winning in the margins, the free-throw battle, the rebounding, the loose balls, those things are always going to be important and will continue to be important, especially when you go on the road and you play a true road game,” Otzelberger said. “This is our first opportunity doing that.”

If the Cyclones want to compete well on the road, they have to stick to what has worked in the past. The Cyclones dominated the first stretch of games thanks to the efficiency on the offensive side of the ball.

That efficiency was hard to come by in the tournament, as the offense struggled to get going and continue rolling at times.

“More than anything, we’ve gotta continue to move the basketball and get in the paint,” Otzelberger said. “I think when we stalled out offensively, it was more guys feeling the pressure of, ‘I’ve gotta make a shot, or I’ve gotta make a play.’”

With both Iowa State and DePaul hungry for wins after some rough stretches, it will come down to what team brings the most pressure and presence on the court. Iowa State has been aggressive on both sides of the ball in the past, so it will come down to reigniting that fire.

“That’s something we hang our hat on, just bringing the fight to the other team,” Curtis Jones said.

Although DePaul is sitting at a 1-5 record, the Blue Demons are not a team to just roll over. Otzelberger spoke on their fight and want to win.

DePaul is also at full strength going into the matchup. Otzelberger talked about how some key players are healthy for the first time this season, such as Mac Etienne, a 6’10” forward who brings a strong defensive presence to the court when he plays.

The Blue Demons are a team that can bring the fight on the offensive end of the court as well. They have four players averaging over 10 points per game and have scored over or around 70 points in all but one game this season.

“They’re skilled offensively, they’re athletic,” Otzelberger said.

Along with the presence DePaul can bring on offense, the recent losses should fuel the team to come out hot against the Cyclones. DePaul’s one win of the season was against South Dakota. Since then, the Blue Demons have dropped three-straight games.

Three out of five of their losses have been at home with the other two being at a neutral site. The most recent loss was at home against Northern Illinois 89-79.

“You also know when you go into these games, they’ve had a couple home losses, but when you’re playing against a Power Five opponent, an opponent who’s done pretty well, they’re gonna be more geared up and amped up to get the win too,” Otzelberger said.

With both teams amped up to secure a win, there is no telling how it will play out. However, the Cyclones know if they play the way they know they can play, they have nothing to worry about.

“It’s time for us to get back to how we play,” King said.

Iowa State will have its chance to get back on the right track by taking on DePaul at 7:30 p.m. Friday in Chicago. The game will be aired live on FS1.

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