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Lockdown defensive efforts lead Cyclones to season sweep over TCU

Rob+Jones+and+Tre+King+fight+TCU+play+for+the+ball++at+the+ISU+vs.+TCU+game+at+Hilton+Coliseum+February+10%2C+2024
Sam Petri
Rob Jones and Tre King fight TCU play for the ball at the ISU vs. TCU game at Hilton Coliseum February 10, 2024

AMES — A strong first half of defense from Iowa State built up a comfortable lead for the Cyclones, which they held on to in a 71-59 win despite threatening runs from TCU in the closing half.

The Cyclones came out as the aggressors to start their matchup with the Horned Frogs, which set the tone for the whole game. TCU started the game 2-for-10 from the field with a pair of turnovers in the first seven minutes of the opening half.

Although Iowa State was winning the battle defensively, it failed to pull away with a sizeable lead despite the Horned Frogs’ poor shooting.

It was a slow start from both teams offensively with the score sitting at 9-6 in favor of the Cyclones before they broke the game open with threes from Tre King and Jackson Paveletzke on an 11-0 run.

It was then that Iowa State relied on its defensive pressure to cruise to a dominant first-half lead.

The Cyclones’ constant efforts to set up double teams and clog up the lanes led to TCU going scoreless for over seven minutes in the first half, which helped them jump out to a comfortable double-digit lead.

It became clear that Iowa State was the more physical and aggressive team on the defensive side, which TCU failed to match.

“That is one thing me, [Robert Jones and Hason Ward] really all the front line guys pride ourself on is being the most physical frontcourt in the Big 12,” King said. “Set the tone with our physicality and throw that first punch.”

The Horned Frogs went almost nine minutes without a made field goal, going 0-for-10 during that span. Iowa State’s ability to clog up the lanes and force sloppy passes kept TCU from putting up quality shots for most of the first half.

Iowa State forced multiple shot clock violations from TCU throughout the first half due to its peskiness at every level.

Although TCU clawed its way back into the game, making five of its last seven attempts heading into halftime, the Cyclones still sat with an eight-point lead due to the Horned Frogs’ elongated scoring droughts.

Even with the Horned Frogs’ late efforts to make the first half close, they still finished the first 20 minutes shooting 8-for-26 from the field and 3-for-11 from 3-point land.

The Cyclones had opportunities to further their lead in the first half, but a near five-minute scoring drought of their own kept the game closer than it could have been.

Although the Horned Frogs’ hot shooting trickled into the second half, Iowa State matched the pace to hold on to its cozy lead. Each team had scored 20 points through the first 10 minutes of the second half, almost matching their entire first-half efforts.

TCU was putting its offense together, and Iowa State knew it would have to match.

“We know basketball is a game of runs so we knew that they were going to throw a punch,” King said. “I think we did a really good job of playing through those mistakes.”

Iowa State turned the heat back on defensively to start the second half and forced four scoreless possessions by TCU to start the half. During that same time, the Cyclones started the half on an 8-0 run highlighted by a pair of threes from Keshon Gilbert and Milan Momcilovic.

“There were some big-time energy plays,” Iowa State head coach T.J. Otzelberger said. “You just got to find ways to focus on getting the stops and then continue to score the basketball, and we were able to do just enough of that to keep that separation and not have the game more in jeopardy.”

Just like in the first half, the Horned Frogs had their moments when they made things interesting. But for every small run that TCU went on, the Cyclones continued to swing back in the loom of letting their first-half efforts go to waste.

Although the Horned Frogs nearly doubled their first-half scoring in the second half, Iowa State responded enough and kept up with TCU’s pace to not let its defensive efforts go to waste.

“I don’t want to say we played great defense down the stretch, cause it seemed like they were scoring a lot still,” Curtis Jones said. “But we were able to counter with baskets as well.”

Following the game, TCU head coach Jamie Dixon praised Otzelberger and his players for their ability to outwork them inside and be the more physical team overall.

Even with the physicality the Cyclones played with, they played smart and kept the Horned Frogs from getting to the line. TCU ended the game with 16 attempts from the charity stripe, eight of which they connected on.

Many of the Horned Frogs’ attempts came during their offensive surges in each half, and Otzelberger credited his guys for not letting TCU benefit from free shots to inch back into the game.

“It is important that we stay ahead of plays defensively,” Otzelberger said. “It takes the mental focus to be able to even as the game is going up and down to make sure that you are doing that job and you are doing it with discipline and accountability.”

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