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‘I’m so happy right now’: Hilton Magic left Gilbert speechless on fiery hot night

Tyler Coe
Keshon Gilbert flexes his muscles after scoring two points against Iowa at Hilton Coliseum on Dec. 7, 2023.

AMES — It was the Keshon Gilbert show Thursday night, as he made quick work of Iowa in the 90-65 win, stringing together the best performance of his Cyclone career.

Gilbert burst out to 25 points as he helped the Cyclones pull away in the second half and secure their biggest win against Iowa in the history of the series. Gilbert’s dominant night started in the second half after Iowa State kept Iowa locked down in the first.

Throughout the night, the Cyclones dominated the paint. Not only was Gilbert driving in and forcing points on the board, Tre King and Robert Jones had their way around the rim. The team was not going to let Iowa repeat what happened a year ago.

“Y’all know what happened last year, so just to come out strong, come out physical and let them know that we’re here,” Jones said. “This is our court. This is our arena. We’re gonna get the better of you guys, and that starts down low in the paint.”

Jones finished the game with 18 points while King finished with 17. However, a majority of the work the duo did in the first half was grabbing focus from Iowa defenders.

Jones and King dominated the paint in the first half, as the Cyclones outscored the Hawkeyes 30-2 in the paint. Along with that, Iowa State was forcing turnovers with ease, scoring 15 points off turnovers compared to Iowa’s single point.

“You control the paint, you control the game,” Jones said.

Keshon Gilbert gets deep in his bag and goes up and under to complete the layup against Iowa at Hilton Coliseum on Dec. 7, 2023. (Tyler Coe)

The dominant first half paved the way for Gilbert to start the second half on fire, as Iowa’s game plan going into the half was not focused on containing him.

“When you go in there and have success right away, it sets you up for future success. Now it opens the drive up more and continues to open things,” Iowa State head coach T.J. Otzelberger said.

Gilbert took hold of the second half right from the jump. Gilbert became the third Cyclone of the night to enter the double-digit point mark, as he drove to the rim and created opportunities from the charity stripe.

That started with Gilbert’s ability to drive into the paint.

“Credit to guys like [Gilbert] and Tamin [Lipsey] who make the plays getting downhill. We really just played off of them,” King said.

Just a few possessions later, Gilbert drove to the rim again. He put up a shot around an Iowa defender that swirled down through the basket. Shots were starting to fall with ease for Gilbert.

Iowa inbounded the ball immediately after, but Lipsey rose up to intercept the pass. Before his feet touched the ground, he launched the ball to Gilbert who was waiting patiently.

Without even taking a second to think, Gilbert let the ball fly from beyond the arc. The ball hit nothing but net.

Gilbert smiled from ear to ear as Iowa was forced to take a timeout. Gilbert was just too hot.

“That’s a hard play to make that [Lipsey] made. To turn around, have the awareness of where the ball is and see the ball, and then immediately find somebody who’s having a hot night—very impressive,” Jones said.

The crowd also thought the play was impressive.

Hilton erupted as the Cyclones neared a 30-point lead. Gilbert was on fire, and Iowa could do nothing to cool him off.

Keshon Gilbert suggests Iowa to take a timeout after he nails a three pointer at Hilton Coliseum on Dec. 7, 2023. (Tyler Coe)

“It’s kind of an unexplainable moment,” Gilbert said. “I’ve never been a part of a crowd like that. I can’t even really explain how I felt. It was just a good feeling for me.”

As “Juicy Wiggle” roared throughout the coliseum, Gilbert ran to the huddle with 18 points and plenty of time to eclipse the 20 mark.

In just four minutes, Gilbert had 11 of Iowa State’s 15 second-half points.

Gilbert’s energy soaked into his teammates, as King and Lipsey put down big baskets to build on Iowa State’s large lead.

“When that happens, that’s when you know that you really gotta step on the other team’s throats and continue to bring that same high level of basketball play,” Jones said.

Gilbert’s hot night kept going later in the second half. As Gilbert drove to the rim and picked up a foul, he was ready to get past 20 points.

Gilbert sank the first free throw but missed the second. Luckily for Gilbert, Jones snatched a rebound as the put-back shots fell short and kicked it back out to Gilbert.

Gilbert moved past a defender with a dribble behind his back and made his way to the rim, sinking a tough layup. He was over 20 points.

Just one possession later, Gilbert got another chance to ignite the crowd.

Milan Momcilovic put up a tough shot as time was running out on the shot clock. As Momcilovic’s shot fell short, Jackson Paveletzke rushed in and snatched the rebound. Paveletzke kicked the ball out to Gilbert, and from the second Gilbert’s 3-pointer left his hands, Hilton knew it was in.

The crowd erupted as Gilbert pushed his point total up to 24. Not even a minute later, that went up to 25 from a made free throw.

Keshon Gilbert drives baseline against Iowa at Hilton Coliseum on Dec. 7, 2023. (Tyler Coe)

“Obviously, I’ve had a history with [Gilbert], knowing him a long time. I told him tonight those are the type of games, that’s the belief we had in him a long time ago,” Otzelberger said.

Gilbert was not just efficient with scoring the ball. He was making his presence known everywhere. By the end of the game, Gilbert had five rebounds and six assists while snatching three steals on defense as well.

Late in the game, Iowa State got another turnover. As the Cyclones pushed down the court, they moved the ball to the outside to Gilbert.

Gilbert did what he had done all night; he drove to the rim. As Gilbert was under the net, he drew the defenders to him and found King out of the corner of his eyes.

As Gilbert flipped the pass behind his back to King, the basket was open for an easy layup. The smooth play highlighted the offense that Gilbert created all night long.

“It doesn’t get any better than that,” King said. “It was funny because earlier in that half, he tried to throw me a head-to-head pass that kinda got a little ahead of me, so after that, he said, ‘Imma get you back,’ and he did that.”

Again, Gilbert’s play caused Hilton to explode.

Gilbert’s night brought Hilton to its feet time after time and even took the words out of his mouth. The smile never disappeared from Gilbert’s face even after the game.

The Gilbert show was officially over, but the energy from the game still left him without words. He was just happy to be part of the atmosphere and the driving force in Iowa State’s dominant 90-65 win.

“I ain’t gonna lie, I don’t even know what to say right now,” Gilbert said. “I’m so happy right now. I ain’t gonna fake it. It’s hard to talk right now.”

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