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Look out below: Cyclones welcome Oklahoma State to lob city

Tyler Coe
Hason Ward catches a lob early in the first half against Houston at Hilton Coliseum on Jan. 9, 2023.

AMES — The Cyclones brought the fire on a chilly Saturday night as they nearly took down the rims and shattered the glass at Hilton Coliseum as energy plays came with ease in Iowa State’s 66-42 win over Oklahoma State.

Throughout the night, the Cyclones pressured Oklahoma State on the defensive end of the court and made the most of opportunities created from turnovers. The Cowboys braved the winter weather to make it to Hilton, but the Cyclones ended up being the bigger storm they needed to watch out for.

“Iowa State played great. We played shitty,” Oklahoma State head coach Mike Boynton said.

Part of the reason that Oklahoma State played subpar was how aggressive Iowa State was on defense. The Cyclones were constantly in the Cowboys’ faces and forced poor shot attempts or turnovers with ease.

That defense was the main reason Iowa State hung in the game early on, despite struggles on offense.

“We played pretty great defense the whole game,” Milan Momcilovic said.

Shots from beyond the arc, and even most shots inside, were not falling. Nearly all of the prolific Cyclone scorers were quiet out of the gate, which led to Oklahoma State controlling the first 11 minutes of the game.

Even Momcilovic, who hit the nail-in-the-coffin shot to take down Houston, started the night 0-of-3. With the ball not falling, the Cyclones used their defensive presence to create offense.

The Cyclones finished the game forcing 20 turnovers against an Oklahoma State team that tends to keep the ball safe. Those turnovers turned into opportunities on the other end of the court, where when the ball was not falling from deep, points in the paint turned into the main option for the Cyclones.

By far the most impactful player in the paint, despite his limited minutes, was Hason Ward. Although Ward’s first minutes on the court were slightly ungraceful.

Ward missed his first layup attempt of the game but got his own rebound and put up a second-chance shot. However, that shot would miss, forcing him to repeat the process again.

Three shots, two rebounds and no points later, Ward had to jog back to the defensive end of the court to find his stride.

“He came in and impacted the game immediately,” Iowa State head coach T.J. Otzelberger said. “Now, I kinda challenged him, because I wasn’t sure early if a few of those rebounds he was trying to pad his stats a little bit playing catch with himself. Once he got through that, he was so efficient.”

Although he recorded two rebounds, it would not be until shortly after that he got his revenge against the rim.

Ward drove into the paint and slammed his first score home. With the Cyclones trailing by six at the time, Ward’s energy play was the fire that revived the Cyclones.

Just a few possessions later, Robert Jones secured a rebound and attempted to get in on the dunking action. Although he could not squeak the ball into the basket, he secured another rebound and put up a layup to cut Oklahoma State’s lead to one.

From then on, it was Iowa State’s night.

“I think it was so many energy plays,” Otzelberger said about the reason for the momentum shift early on. “I actually felt like our effort on the offensive glass, [Watson] was terrific, [King] made a play.”

Iowa State was starting to separate late in the first half taking its first lead of the night. However, Oklahoma State was not ready to roll over.

The Cowboys were still playing with effort and aggressiveness on defense. With eight minutes left to play in the first, one player was about to show the Cowboys how aggressive the game could get.

The Cyclones forced another turnover on defense and started a fastbreak to the basket. Curtis Jones found Tre King sprinting into the paint and fed him the ball.

King went up for a dunk and slammed the ball through the net as hard as he could. The explosive dunk ignited Hilton and shifted the tides in Iowa State’s favor.

Ward followed suit not long after with another massive dunk. The energy in Hilton started to feed into the Cyclones, as they continued to dominate the paint.

The dunks kept coming for Ward. Not only that, Ward was efficient on defense as well, recording one steal early on.

“He’s so disruptive,” Otzelberger said.

With time ticking down in the half, Ward poked another Oklahoma State pass out of the lane and kicked the ball out to Tamin Lipsey on the fastbreak. Lipsey tossed the ball over the rim, and Ward finished the play with another monster dunk.

Ward and the other big men were putting on a show for Hilton and kept the Cowboys from cutting into the Cyclones’ lead.

“When [Ward’s] in there, you always know he’s kinda lurking behind, and at any time, if you commit that big, if he commits to the drive and our guards just flip it up in the air, he’s gonna go get it,” Otzelberger said.

By the end of the first half, the Cyclones were outscoring Oklahoma State 28-8 in the paint. A 12-0 run late in the first half helped the Cyclones secure a healthy lead, and they were not going to let up at all.

“We knew that we didn’t want to be complacent and fall back on things,” King said. “So we wanted to really knock them out early and then stay aggressive and keep our foot on the gas the entire time.”

Cyclones continued to dominate the paint and extend their lead throughout the start of the second half. Although the high-energy plays came less often in the second half, they still showed up occasionally.

With just under eight minutes to play, Ward checked back in.

Again, Ward showed off his high-flying offense as he caught another lob, this time from Keshon Gilbert, and slammed the ball through the basket.

Of Ward’s six makes, four were from dunks. He also finished the game with five rebounds, while King finished with seven.

“When you have the combination of our guards that are able to get downhill the way they are and [Ward] as that lob threat, it’s just really effective for us,” Otzelberger said. “It’s a great weapon.”

The Cyclones finished the game outscoring the Cowboys 42-16 in the paint. Not only that, the defense they showed throughout the game kept Oklahoma State to 42 points.

After a couple years of rough home outings against the Cowboys under Otzelberger, the Cyclones got revenge in dominant fashion.

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