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Royston: Is Iowa State better than Purdue?

Milan+Momcilovic+shoots+a+fadeaway+jumper+against+Iowa+at+Hilton+Coliseum+on+Dec.+7%2C+2023.
Tyler Coe
Milan Momcilovic shoots a fadeaway jumper against Iowa at Hilton Coliseum on Dec. 7, 2023.

AMES — The question of Iowa State being better than Purdue seems more valid after Iowa State’s murder of the Hawkeyes.

Although I am not going to exaggerate the win too much or overreact, the performance showed that if Iowa State plays perfect basketball, it can dominate any team in its way. I mean, the Cyclones did beat Iowa in a more impressive manner than Purdue.

The Boilermakers scored less points and gave up more points in the nearly similar games. Although home-court advantage might have played a role in the way the Cyclones won.

Thursday night showed there might be no tougher place to play than Hilton Coliseum. If the Cyclones played every single game of the season at home, they could be one of the top teams in the nation.

Now I understand it is a little absurd to compare Iowa State to Purdue at this point in the season, but I do not think it is absurd to say this is T.J. Otzelberger’s best offense since he became the head coach.

The potential of the offense shined through at times throughout the start of the non-conference season, like the last stretch against VCU and the first half against Texas A&M, but they never got things going for the full 40 minutes. That was not the case against Iowa, as it was pure Cyclone dominance all night long.

“I’d say to that level, it’s definitely the first time,” Otzelberger said. “When you do it over 40 minutes. It’s another thing when you have a good stretch or a good half.”

It was not just the way the team strung together two solid halves, it was the way they did so against the biggest in-state rival and one of the biggest games of the year.

Everything was working. The whole night, even from the tip, it felt like Iowa was never going to claw back into the game.

Robert Jones was electric and perfect around the rim, Tre King was dominating the paint and Keshon Gilbert played lights out in the half. It was all capped off with a sequence of Iowa State’s dreams, as a turnover on defense led to a behind-the-back pass from Gilbert to King for the bucket.

Plays like that were happening consistently.

Jackson Paveletzke nails a corner three against Iowa at Hilton Coliseum on Dec. 7, 2023. (Tyler Coe)

“I think what you’re seeing from our group is that guys enjoy making a play for a teammate,” Otzelberger said. “That’s such a contagious habit to have.”

When the team is playing smooth basketball, they are scary. Whenever Iowa would attempt to adjust, the Cyclones would find another way to score. That is what the Cyclones need to do when Big 12 play comes around.

There is clearly potential in every player on the team. Everyone has strengths that will help them move far in the toughest conference in the nation.

“We have a unique team, where we have a lot of guys who are very physical and very good finishers at the rim,” King said.

The Cyclones just need to find their physicality every night out. The Big 12 leaves teams with no room to breathe. If you are not playing at your best, you’re not going to win.

Clearly, the team has played better when they are taking advantage of their physicality and athleticism and playing free.

“It’s really easy when we’re all flowing and in sync like that,” King said.

However, that freedom – even if it is the path to success – needs to be contained, and the Cyclones still need to lock in when it matters.

“With freedom comes discipline,” Otzelberger said.

That discipline shows up the most on defense, which Otzelberger has instilled a strong importance in the mind of the team. Just because the Cyclones are peaking offensively does not mean they can slack on the other end of the court.

That clearly was not the case though against Iowa, as the Cyclones kept the Hawkeyes under 70 points. That defensive fire can fuel the offense and is going to be the infrastructure for a successful conference season.

“First and foremost, defense wins games, defense wins championships,” Jones said.

That is the name of the game after all. In the end, winning is the only thing that matters.

Beating Iowa was “delightful,” as Jones stated, but that is just one win. Now they have to build off that momentum and continue playing perfect basketball.

Iowa State may not be as good as the top teams in the nation yet like Purdue, but there is a path to get there. The Cy-Hawk game highlighted the potential of the team on both ends of the court. Now it is up to the team to build off that potential and fight through the season.

Good teams win. Great teams continue winning. The Cyclones have to work toward being that great team they showed they can be.

“We’ve got a lot of potential to keep improving, getting better,” Otzelberger said.

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  • J

    Jon | Dec 11, 2023 at 3:56 pm

    Your comparison of the two games is ignoring that Purdue sat out their primary rotation players with 15 minutes left in the second half and onward.

    Reply
  • M

    MES | Dec 9, 2023 at 9:48 pm

    Tap the brakes

    Reply
  • D

    Don McClannahan | Dec 9, 2023 at 1:24 pm

    From one former Cyclone student/athlete to the team…you make me proud to be a Clone

    Reply