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Home crowd, trusting new offense among keys for beating Iowa

Robert+Jones+gets+checked+out+of+the+game+against+Lindenwood+at+Hilton+Coliseum+on+Nov.+9%2C+2023.
Tyler Coe
Robert Jones gets checked out of the game against Lindenwood at Hilton Coliseum on Nov. 9, 2023.

AMES — Head coach T.J. Otzelberger knows that to repeat history against the in-state rival Hawkeyes, a few things will need to fall into place, one of which is out of his control.

In the 77th Cy-Hawk matchup and the third in the Otzelberger era, Iowa State looks to get its first statement win of the season against a 5-3 Iowa squad. Otzelberger has split his first two matchups with the Hawkeyes, with a historic 73-53 win at Hilton in his first season back in 2021.

The next year, a Kris Murray-less Iowa team flipped the script with a blowout win of their own in a 75-56 win.

“Neither of the games came down to the final few minutes to determine the winner. We got to control what we can, which is all those effort-based controllable things that we focus on and practice every single day to carry over into game night,” Otzelberger said.

Both teams have benefited from their respective home crowds, and with the rivalry game back at Hilton, the Cyclones are counting on their fans to bring the same energy they did in 2021.

Otzelberger described the atmosphere in Ames as “phenomenal” during the Cyclones’ largest margin of victory over the Hawkeyes and understands the importance of the fans’ excitement returning in this year’s matchup.

“I know there’s a lot of hard places to play in college basketball and there is a lot of difficult home environments, but we put ours up against any. We’re excited for the challenge for our fans to really come out and create that same atmosphere,” Otzelberger said.

One Cyclone that was on the court back in the 2021 victory is forward Robert Jones, who remembers his ears popping during the middle of the game due to the Hilton crowd. That matchup was one of the most anticipated in recent history as it was the Hawkeyes’ high-powered offense against the Cyclones’ lockdown defense.

Despite the amount of player turnover from both teams, neither has changed much in terms of what they do well to win games. The same cannot be said about NCAA rules, which Iowa State has adjusted to throughout this season.

Although the rules have changed, Jones stressed the importance of keeping the same mentality on the defensive side of the ball which was the deciding factor in 2021.

“We defend a little bit differently but still got to bring that physicality that forced the dictation we brought the first year here,” Jones said. “I’d say our offense got a little bit better as well. We’ll look to move the ball a lot more, get in the paint and score at will as opposed to relying on our defense.”

Even with Iowa State’s increased efforts on offense this season, the efforts on the defensive side will need to be just as important.

Through their first eight games, the Hawkeyes have averaged the 11th-most points per game (87.9) and have shot 48% from the field. Due to new pieces and the development of their veterans, they continue to pose their usual offensive threat against the Cyclones.

“They score the ball at a high clip,” Otzelberger said. “They’re a group that really pushes the pace on made and missed field goals. They really get out and go.”

Sophomore guard Tamin Lipsey—coming off a historic triple-double performance Friday against DePaul, just the seventh in program history—labeled the Cy-Hawk rivalry as one of the best in college sports.

The Ames native expressed his excitement for the opportunity to play against the Hawkeyes on the court he grew up watching and established what the rivalry means to the entire state.

“Everyone in the state of Iowa is either on that side or this side,” Lipsey said. “There’s a lot of passion that goes into it on both sides and just a lot of competitiveness and wanting to win it more than the other team.”

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