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Three Big Takeaways: Hot nights from the Jones duo and Lipsey propel Cyclones to blowout win

Jacob Rice
Tamin Lipsey attempts a layup during the Iowa State vs. Eastern Illinois University men’s basketball game, Hilton Coliseum, Dec. 21, 2023.

AMES — The Cyclones continued to tear through the non-conference schedule, as four Cyclones eclipsed 15 points in the 80-48 win over Eastern Illinois.

What started out as the Curtis Jones game, ended with Milan Momcilovic delivering the dagger to keep the Panthers at bay all night long. The Cyclones made up for a quiet night in the paint with threats from everywhere on the court.

That all started with yet another shaky start that led into a blowout win.

Deep shots spook Panthers

Even though Iowa State jumped out to an early lead, the Panthers were not going to roll over.

Halfway through the first, Eastern Illinois started to fight back. The Panthers went on an 8-0 run as Iowa State went cold.

The Cyclones tried to create plays in the paint, but the Panthers were all over any attempt near the rim. They needed to create opportunities outside the paint.

One man was going to be the one to answer Iowa State’s prayers: Curtis Jones.

After a rough stretch to start the season, Jones finally started to find his shot in recent weeks, as his confidence continues to skyrocket.

“I think it’s just been a confidence thing,” Jones said. “You know, getting my confidence back.”

Curtis Jones attempts a 3-point shot in the first half of the Iowa State vs. Eastern Illinois University men’s basketball game, Hilton Coliseum, Dec. 21, 2023.

Jones’ confidence was on display from the start, as he hit a pair of early 3-pointers to get his night rolling, but it was not until later when he hit his stride. With Eastern Illinois surging back off 3-pointers, Jones was the one to start fighting back.

“The ball finds guys that bring energy, and he was bringing great energy,” Iowa State head coach T.J. Otzelberger said.

Jones was the first Cyclone in double-figures after knocking down his third shot from deep. His presence from beyond the arc fueled other Cyclones to connect, as Jackson Paveletzke hit one shortly after.

Jones helped Iowa State extend its lead in the first half, by connecting again on a deep shot.

“[My teammates] are just finding me at the right time,” Jones said. “I wouldn’t say I’m doing anything special.”

With time running out in the half, Jones found himself wide open in the corner again. He let the ball fly to knock down his fourth 3-pointer of the night and build his point total up to 15, nearly half of the Cyclones’ total points at the time. Shots were coming easy to Jones all night long.

“I wouldn’t say it was easy, it’s tough mentally just going through a slump like that,” Jones said. “Only thing you can do is keep going, so I just kept going.”

Jones finished the game with 18 points, shooting 5-of-9 from beyond the arc.

At half, Iowa State had more points from deep than in the paint.

Tamin Lipsey: The machine

Lipsey continued to prove his worth as he further cemented himself as one of the best point guards in the nation. Although he was not raining down scores early on, he was still filling the statsheet.

Lipsey was facilitating buckets all night long. He finished the first half with four assists and three steals, while finding a wide open Jones on multiple catch-and-shoot 3-pointers.

“It makes it super easy knowing we have knock-down shooters,” Lipsey said.

Lipsey was on pace for another double-double, and possibly a triple-double. Although he would not get there, he was still impacting the game throughout the night.

The second half started with more production from Lipsey. He snatched the ball from a Panther to get the offense moving on the other end of the court.

Along with the steals and assists, Lipsey started to get hot from the field. He was putting up more shots and driving into the paint.

After missing his first three 3-pointers, Lipsey connected on his fourth attempt to hit the double-figure mark. Shortly after, Lipsey threw himself into the paint to secure another layup.

Lipsey even blocked a ball on the other end of the court to prevent a fastbreak layup from Eastern Illinois late in the game.

Lipsey was electric.

His airtight performance did not end there, as he made another massive play. Lipsey found Robert Jones on a fast break for a dunk with five minutes left in the game. That score ignited Hilton and put the Cyclones up by nearly 30 points.

“I love when guys run the floor, especially big men. I always dribble with my eyes up. I’m always looking for guys,” Lipsey said. “[Robert Jones] knows that, and I think that’s one of the factors of why he runs so hard, because he knows I’m looking for him.”

Lipsey was putting up numbers once again, as he was up to 16 points, six rebounds and seven assists.

Lipsey would finish the night with that statline. He continued to be a well-oiled machine and his efficiency helped keep the team moving all night.

Milan Momcilovic delivers the nail in the coffin

After a quiet start to the game, Momcilovic broke out with less than 10 minutes in the game to dodge any hopes the Panthers had of a comeback.

Milan Momcilovic, Iowa State vs. Eastern Illinois University men’s basketball game, Hilton Coliseum, Dec. 21, 2023.

Momcilovic had failed to connect on a handful of 3-pointers early on, and was not finding his way to the charity stripe. The red-hot scorer was ice cold to start the game.

“We challenged him at halftime,” Otzelberger said. “I felt like the first half he was going through the motions and wasn’t being the player that we know he can be.”

As the second half rolled on, Momcilovic started to find his groove. He was pulling up shots from anywhere on the court and even knocked down a catch-and-shoot 3-pointer.

Not only that, Momcilovic was drawing fouls and connecting on his free throws. Momcilovic calmed down any Panther push that started late in the game because of one key aspect that he brought to the game.

“His energy offensively,” Otzelberger said. “He was cutting, he was moving the ball, he was getting to his spots, he was getting to the free-throw line.”

Momcilovic seemed almost scared to drive into the rim earlier in the game, but that fear was gone in the second half. He was becoming a one-man show for a solid stretch near the end of the game.

“In the second half, he was aggressive,” Otzelberger said.

Momcilovic finished his night connecting on a turnaround fadeaway from the free-throw line. The shot was the nail in the coffin, as the game was well out of reach for the Panthers.

Momcilovic ended the game as the third Cyclone with 16 points, as the Cyclones cruised to another win in the non-conference season.

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Jacob Rice, Visual Editor
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