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Three Big Takeaways: Cyclones’ defensive physicality helps sweep TCU

Sam Petri
Curtis Jones dribbles away from defender at the ISU vs. TCU game at Hilton Coliseum February 10, 2024

AMES — Defense was the name of the game against TCU, as the Cyclones put together a complete 40 minutes on both ends of the court to sweep the Horned Frogs with a 71-59 win.

Although Hilton Magic helped out, the Cyclones stayed perfect at home off an efficient offensive game and a physical defensive presence. The combination of those aspects helped the Cyclones topple TCU.

Iowa State suffocates the Horned Frogs

The Cyclones put TCU into the torture chamber from the first seconds of the game.

“That’s the biggest thing we all talk about… setting the tone with our physicality and always throwing that first punch,” Tre King said.

In the last meeting between the teams, Iowa State forced a historic 27 turnovers. However, TCU had prepared for the moment and was ready to keep better care of the ball.

Iowa State did not need to force turnovers. What TCU was not ready for was one of Iowa State’s best defensive presences of the season.

Nearly every possession from TCU came down to the buzzer. The backboard lit up red more times than TCU could get shots up.

“The biggest thing was us just being disruptive, and doing what we do,” King said.

Although TCU knocked down a pair of threes early on, Iowa State was about to put the Horned Frogs through eight minutes of agony.

TCU’s field goal percentage fell to 20% and would only get lower from there. In an eight-minute stretch, the Horned Frogs turned the ball over five times and made zero baskets.

Iowa State’s physicality was too much for TCU to handle.

“That’s one thing me, [Robert Jones] and [Hason Ward], really all the front-line guys really pride ourself on is being the most physical front court in the Big 12,” King said.

TCU had no room to breathe on every single possession and could not find anything inside the arc for over 10 minutes. With the Cyclones falling short on the offensive end of the court at times, it was Iowa State’s defense that helped amass a comfortable lead early on.

“They wanted physical, they got physical. They knocked us all over the place,” TCU head coach Jamie Dixon said.

Iowa State threes blow the game wide open

Leading by eight points, the Cyclones needed a spark early to maintain dominance in front of a home crowd.

That spark came earlier than expected as Keshon Gilbert put up a 3-point attempt. That shot fell short.

Gilbert got another chance from the same spot. He nailed his second attempt to ignite Hilton.

Shortly after, the Cyclones got yet another defensive stop. That stop led to a made 3-pointer from Milan Momcilovic.

In the same span, Curtis Jones got his name in the mix. Jones knocked down 3-pointers on back-to-back possessions to give the Cyclones a healthy lead.

“We don’t really care who scores, to be honest. Whoever just gets the good look, that’s who the coaches and we want taking the shot,” Curtis Jones said. “We all trust and believe in each other, so it’s a beautiful thing to see.”

In the first few minutes of the second half, the Cyclones hit more 3-pointers than TCU had hit in the entire game up to that point. From then on, Iowa State would fight to cling onto its double-digit lead.

Cyclones finally close the door

What seems like the norm for the Cyclones is seeing a large first-half lead disappear in the blink of an eye once the second half rolls around. Although they have locked down in the end, the lulls to start the second half or the lulls that crop up in the final 10 minutes were concerning.

However, the Cyclones took new form against TCU.

After entering the second half with an eight-point lead, it was expected that TCU would try to cut into that. Iowa State’s early lead grew early on and from that point on, the focus was on maintaining that lead.

With how run-dependent games seem to be in the Big 12, the Cyclones have let runs hurt them more than they would have liked in the past. When TCU started fighting back, Iowa State locked in and closed out the game in dominant fashion.

The key to victory was continued aggression.

“I think we were doing a good job of continuing to get buckets,” Curtis Jones said.

Along with the offensive output, the Cyclones made the most of stops they got on defense to stay on top and continue to build their lead.

Another area of struggle in past games has been free-throw shooting. When it mattered most, Iowa State hit its free throws against TCU.

The added efforts of timely defensive stops and consistent scoring helped fend off the Horned Frogs enough for the Cyclones to pull out a 71-59 win.

“We were able to do just enough of that to keep that separation and not have the game in more jeopardy,” Iowa State head coach T.J. Otzelberger said.

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