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The Monday After: Coaching tensions outshine lights-out shooting

Joseph Dicklin
T.J. Otzelberger coaches from the sidelines after a missed three point attempt from the Cyclones during the Iowa State vs. Kansas game on Jan. 27, 2024 in Hilton Coliseum.

The Cyclones capped off a week of dominance over the state of Kansas by taking down one of the giants of the Big 12.

Hilton Magic was in full effect in Iowa State’s back-to-back wins over Kansas State and Kansas. As it tends to be the case, both matchups played out in exciting and dramatic fashion.

From a near brawl of coaches to Iowa State turning into the prime Golden State Warriors, the week at home proved to be eventful.

No place like home

It is no secret that the Cyclones play like a different team at home. On the road, they struggle in matchups against tough Big 12 teams, but at home, they could take down any team in the nation.

Whether you believe in Hilton Magic or not, there is something special about Iowa State’s play at home. That higher level of play was on display against Kansas State and more so against No. 7 Kansas.

The week at home solidified what everyone already knew. It has been preached all season long that home games should be chalked up to a win.

Defending home court is the best way to succeed in a stacked Big 12 Conference, and so far, Iowa State has done a great job doing so. Although both games were dicey at times, a strong closing in both is promising for the matchups to come.

Houston and Kansas were the teams that posed the biggest threat of stealing a win at Hilton. Now that both giants are down, the Cyclones can focus their attention on stealing more road wins as a tournament appearance already looks secured.

Battle of the coaches

Perhaps the biggest story of the week has been the drama that unfolded between Iowa State head coach T.J. Otzelberger and Kansas State head coach Jerome Tang.

Not even halfway into the Kansas State game, Tang exploded. At that point, tensions were high, but something was said that caused Tang to cross halfcourt and get into a yelling match with Otzelberger.

Later in the game, Tang would pick a technical foul for another incident where he went off the handle. Tang also finished his week of Big 12 play picking up another technical when Kansas State traveled to Houston.

Although nothing was said about the situation immediately following the game, it did come out from some Kansas State sources later that Tang thought Iowa State managers were sneaking across the court to peek into Kansas State’s huddle.

Otzelberger felt the need to set the record straight. After the Kansas game, Otzelberger made it clear that his team would never cheat.

Otzelberger was heated in the post-game press conference, rightfully so, as Tang’s accusations came directly at the integrity of the Cyclones’ program. Although the situation is over for now, there is a good chance the game at Kansas State will reopen some wounds on both sides.

The drama from the Kansas State game took almost all attention off the game itself, which turned into a weird win for the Cyclones. The Cyclones fended off a near 20-point comeback from the Wildcats thanks to a waterfall of foul calls.

Shooters shoot

The second game of the week proved to be a different story entirely from the Kansas State game. The Cyclones took down Kansas thanks to an oddly hot night from beyond the arc.

Although Otzelberger said it was not a fluke shooting game, as the Cyclones have a handful of talented shooters that can all hit shots, the team was hitting at a much higher rate than usual.

The Cyclones usually end their games shooting 5-for-15 from deep or attempting just 14 threes all day. Against Kansas, they shot 5-for-15 in the first half and finished by making 14 total 3-pointers.

The second half saw the Cyclones knock down nine out of their 15 shot attempts, as they shot over 50% from deep.

However, the biggest surprise was Tre King knocking down four 3-pointers as he looked like more of a guard than a big man. The Jayhawks dared him to shoot, as he does not tend to be much of a sharpshooter, and King made the most of his shots.

However, the amount of threes does not come as too much of a surprise. Watching the game, you could tell Kansas was not planning well for the three.

After the game Kansas star Hunter Dickinson and head coach Bill Self both mentioned that they did not expect the Cyclones to knock down shots from deep because they had not done that throughout the Otzelberger-era.

That miscalculation was the entire reason that the Cyclones had as many looks as they did. Kansas protected the paint and expected the Cyclones to fall short from deep, but that was not the case.

Kansas’ slide in Big 12 play is something that brings concerns for the future, as the Jayhawks have now been upset on the road three times in Big 12 play. Not adjusting is why Iowa State exploited Kansas’ gameplan, and the Cyclones rode a hot night to a perfect finish to a week at Hilton.

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