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“There’s not an ego out there”: Iowa State’s balanced offensive overpowers Texas Tech

Matteo Bender
Curtis Jones passing through the defense during the Iowa State vs Texas Tech game, Hilton Coliseum, Feb. 17, 2024.

AMES — Although Keshon Gilbert finished the game with 24 points, Iowa State’s 82-74 win over Texas Tech was anything but a one-man effort.

As Texas Tech’s head coach Grant McCasland sat down, he was also stunned by the balanced offensive day from Iowa State. McCasland counted the number aloud and made it clear that preparing for the Cyclones was no easy task, especially at home.

“Everybody scores it. I don’t know what it was today, but one, two, three, four, five guys in double figures with Tre King at eight,” McCasland said. “That’s a difficult team to prepare for.”

Early on it seemed that Texas Tech was not prepared for the offensive onslaught Iowa State was about to bring.

Iowa State started to run away with the game from the jump. With Robert Jones hitting every shot he took and the rest of the crew following suit, Texas Tech fell into a hole right away.

Jones scored eight straight points, followed by an and-one layup from Gilbert. Then the shooters got in the mix.

Curtis Jones knocked down an open three, and Milan Momcilovic hit his signature fadeaway. In the matter of minutes, Iowa State was on a 10-0 run.

“There’s not an ego out there that is trying to make a shot or play for themselves. It’s everything for the team,” Iowa State head coach T.J. Otzelberger said.

The large scoring output in the first half was due to Iowa State’s presence on defense. Throughout every single game, the Cyclones have continued to preach the motto that defense turns into offense.

That was on display, as Iowa State forced 10 turnovers in the first half and outscored Texas Tech 20-0 in points off turnovers. By the end of the game, that went up to 28-0.

McCasland said it best when he described how physical Iowa State’s defense was. With Iowa State running away with the game, the Red Raiders desperately tried to get shots to fall.

“The physicality of the game. You feel the squeeze to make them, and this place, I thought, squeezed us,” McCasland said.

The second half opened the same way. Every Cyclone was hitting their shots, while the defense continued to suffocate Texas Tech.

Gilbert started the half knocking down back-to-back 3-pointers to build Iowa State’s lead up to 19. When he was not hitting from deep, he was driving downhill and picking up layups.

With how physical the game was, and how that physicality was rewarded, Gilbert was the player that personified that. But that was what he loved about the Big 12.

“Just expecting physicality… I really look forward to it,” Gilbert said.

Although Gilbert’s heat check fell short on the next possession, he handed the baton off to other teammates. If it was not a lob to Hason Ward, it was a dime in the lane to Demarion Watson or Robert Jones.

“When they jump on the pump-fake, that just allows me to get in the paint and share the ball with my teammates and make plays for myself too,” Gilbert said.

Sharing the ball was the name of the game throughout the first half, and that stayed the same in the second. With how Texas Tech defended, the Cyclones were forced into a one-on-ones constantly. Even then, they shared the ball at a high clip and kept the turnovers low.

“It still says a lot that we were 2-1 as a group even with how they defend,” Otzelberger said.

By the time the halfway point rolled around in the second, a handful of Cyclones were either at double-figures or nearing it.

Tamin Lipsey was playing similarly to Gilbert, as his efforts in the paint were rewarded time and time again. Iowa State’s ability to attack the rim showed through nearly every player. There was a reason that the Cyclones outscored the Red Raiders in the paint 44-22 by the final buzzer.

“Being able to finish at the rim… and [Lipsey’s] and-one, is high level, high level,” Robert Jones said.

With eight minutes left in the game, Texas Tech was attempting to storm back. Just then, the Cyclones locked in and put the game away.

Gilbert buried another 3-pointer and kept attacking the paint. He even stuffed a shot attempt on a fastbreak late in the game to keep Texas Tech from getting on a run.

The nail in the coffin came from the hands of Gilbert, as he hit a layup on a fastbreak with less than 30 seconds left in the game to put the Cyclones back up by 10.

A pair of free throws from Gilbert iced the game with 15 seconds left. Iowa State remained perfect at home thanks to a full-team effort.

By the end of the day, Gilbert finished with 24 points. Curtis Jones finished with 12. The trio of Robert Jones, Lipsey and Momcilovic all had 10 a piece, while King was close behind with eight.

All in all, every Cyclone got their name in the mix to fuel the team’s highest-scoring game of conference play in what could prove to be a critical time in the season.

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