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Guarding the throne: Jones’ and Gilbert’s recent offensive surge

Curtis+Jones+%285%29+and+Keshon+Gilbert+%2810%29+chat+at+half-court+during+free+throws+against+Iowa+in+the+CyHawk+game+at+Hilton+Coliseum+on+Dec.+7%2C+2023
Tyler Coe
Curtis Jones (5) and Keshon Gilbert (10) chat at half-court during free throws against Iowa in the CyHawk game at Hilton Coliseum on Dec. 7, 2023

After a slow start to Big 12 play, two off-season additions to the Cyclones turned their seasons around with a trio of efficient games in big moments.

The resurgence of Keshon Gilbert and Curtis Jones all started when Iowa State took on TCU on the road Jan. 20, without the assistance of star point guard Tamin Lipsey. With the status of Lipsey up in the air at the time, and how others had been performing, questions began to rise about the Cyclones’ relevance in the Big 12.

Gilbert and Jones have put those doubts to rest over the last three games.

Even with Lipsey back in the starting lineup now, the duo of supporting cast members have each stepped up their games to help lead the Cyclones to their three-game winning streak.

“We just kept working,” Gilbert said. “We knew it was going to come around for us. We knew that the work was going to show eventually, so we just kept working.”

The pair of offensive-savvy guards have combined for an average of 33.6 points per game on 48.4% shooting from the field over the last three games. Their uptick in scoring has made up for Lipsey’s drop in production, with the Ames native averaging nine points during that stretch.

For Jones, who had failed to find consistency with his 3-point shooting, all he needed was an outside perspective to get one of the main parts of his game back on track.

“After the BYU game they kind of told me they wanted me to be more aggressive hunting shots,” Jones said. “I was kind of looking at only open shots beforehand but in the Big 12, or any high major conference, there’s not going to be a lot of wide-open shots.”

Finding your shot is a small part of what makes the Big 12 one of the toughest conferences to play in. The adversity that can be seen throughout the league, whether it is losing a star player or dropping a game at home, can hinder you from becoming a true contender.

But given the amount of challenges that the team went up against in the offseason, they felt prepared for anything that would hit them during the season.

“The coaches do a great job of bringing us together,” Jones said. “We do a lot of hard things in the offseason and when you go through hard things with a group of people it brings you guys together.”

“We’ve been through harder things together and we got through it, so we can get through this together,” Gilbert said.

While the togetherness of the Cyclones spreads throughout the entire team, the bond that Gilbert and Jones have formed has done more than just elevate their games.

The pair have been putting in extra work every morning, getting in the gym before 7 a.m., and staying after practice. They each know how good the other can be, and that helping each other will only take them to higher places.

“I know the type of player [Gilbert] is I have seen it since the summer. Nothing he is doing is really surprising me,” Jones said.

“That’s my boy, I love him to death,” Gilbert said. “We got a strong bond because I feel like we’ve been through the same things since we got here.”

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