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Three Big Takeaways: Cyclones survive nail-biter, earn first road Big 12 win

Curtis+Jones+shoots+a+layup+against+New+Hampshire+at+Hilton+Coliseum+on+Dec.+31%2C+2023.
Tyler Coe
Curtis Jones shoots a layup against New Hampshire at Hilton Coliseum on Dec. 31, 2023.

The Cyclones stayed alive in a nail-biting finish against TCU as they turned their defense into a turnover factory to squeak out a 73-72 win on the road.

With the Cyclones playing without their star point guard, Tamin Lipsey, the game would showcase the talents of the next guys up. Although the second half was plagued with a rollercoaster of emotions for Iowa State players and fans, the Cyclones finished the job and picked up their first road win of the Big 12 season.

TCU turnovers fuel Iowa State’s fire

TCU entered the game as a team that was known for its ball security. The Horned Frogs were near the bottom of the Big 12 in turnovers per game.

However, they had not faced off against Iowa State yet.

Through the start of Big 12 play, the Cyclones hung their hat on their defense, which mainly came from forced turnovers. With the Cyclones forcing turnovers at a high clip already, they were not looking to slow down at all.

Iowa State started the game forcing a pair of turnovers. The first turnover led to Keshon Gilbert scoring the first points of the night with a floater in transition. From that point on, Iowa State would get many more opportunities for points in transition.

In the first four minutes, TCU turned the ball over five times. In the first five minutes, that total went up to six.

With Lipsey sitting out due to a shoulder sprain, other players had to step up and fill the role he played on defense. Curtis Jones was the guy that filled his shoes as he got back-to-back steals early in the first half.

Just over five minutes into the game, Jones poked another ball free to force another Cyclone fastbreak. Gilbert drove the ball into the lane on the other end of the court and lobbed a ball to Hason Ward for the basket.

In just over six minutes, TCU turned the ball over nine times, leading to a double-digit Cyclone lead. Thirteen of the Cyclones’ first 15 points were from turnovers.

Although TCU locked in around the 10-minute mark, Iowa State’s defense was inevitable. Late in the first half, Iowa State forced its 14th turnover of the night as Tre King poked an errant pass out of the paint. That turnover led to a fastbreak from the Cyclones which saw Ward lob a ball to King for a one-handed finish.

Iowa State was on fire in the first half thanks to the turnovers. At the half, the Cyclones forced 18 turnovers.

Of Iowa State’s 44 points, 29 were from turnovers. By the end of the game, the Cyclones handed TCU its highest turnover game of the season.

Before Saturday, the Horned Frogs had not turned it over more than 20 times. The Cyclones forced 27 turnovers, the most in Big 12 play in school history. That was also the most by TCU in over 20 years.

Curtis Jones steals TCU’s fire

With Lipsey on the mend following the loss to BYU, other players had to step up to take his place.

The player that got the most of his first opportunity in the starting lineup was Jones. Jones was not only a menace on the defensive end of the court, he was efficient all around.

In the first five minutes, he floated a ball into the net, assisted two other scores and rebounded a long offensive rebound that led to more points. The offense was moving smoothly thanks to Jones.

Not only was he impactful on offense, he secured four steals in the first five minutes of the game.

With less than 10 minutes left in the first half, TCU was storming back. The turnovers stopped coming from the Horned Frogs.

As Jones checked back in, his defensive fire had not cooled down one bit. He immediately snatched another steal and sunk a deep three on the other end of the court.

The second half saw Jones shut down another TCU run.

TCU started the second half with a 7-0 run. Jones decided to end that.

The Cyclones picked up their first points of the half on a Gilbert free throw. Gilbert’s second free throw bounced off the rim, but Iowa State rebounded.

After some ball movement, Jones caught the ball from well outside the 3-point line and let it fly. Another made three from Jones.

Just one possession later, Jones floated another ball from midrange to extend Iowa State’s lead again. He was the Band-Aid they needed.

Just five minutes into the second half, Jones snatched his seventh steal of the game. Just one steal shy of Lipsey’s record.

Jones’ efforts on the court shifted TCU’s momentum and helped Iowa State rebuild its lead to 19 halfway through the second.

Although that lead was nearly wiped away, Jones’ 17 points, four assists and seven steals were a major factor in Iowa State staying alive near the end of the game.

Gilbert puts in the work

Gilbert was the other player alongside Jones that needed to step up Lipsey’s absence.

From the jump, Gilbert took control of the game. Entering the contest, Gilbert was 0-for-8 from deep in Big 12 play. However, he seemed more confident early on as he sank a pair of shots from beyond the arc.

With just under seven minutes to play in the first, Gilbert put up a shot from Steph Curry range, nothing but net.

However, it was Gilbert’s fire on both ends of the court that kept Iowa State in the game despite TCU’s best efforts of getting back in.

Early in the second half, TCU cut Iowa State’s 19-point lead down to just nine in the matter of minutes. As Gilbert checked back in, he went back to work.

Robert Jones set a screen and Gilbert drove into the lane to pick up the and-one to put the Cyclones back up by double-figures.

Again, TCU cut Iowa State’s lead down, and again, Gilbert drove to the rim to cut off TCU’s run.

That bucket put Gilbert up to 20 points on the day. When he needed to step up the most, he did.

With less than two minutes in the game, TCU was on an 11-2 run with Iowa State’s lead down to four.

From that point on, it was grind time for every Cyclone, especially Gilbert. Gilbert would finish the game playing the most minutes on the team with 37 and ending with 20 points, four rebounds, four assists and two steals.

As Iowa State inbounded the ball with less than 30 seconds to go, it was Gilbert who shook free from his man to receive the pass and take time off the clock.

Gilbert attempted to lob a pass to Ward but was fouled on the pass. Although Gilbert missed his free throw, he was lucky that TCU could not get it going on the other end of the court as Iowa State squeaked out a 73-72 win on the road.

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