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New and improved Cyclones ready for revenge game against Oklahoma

Tre+King+going+up+for+a+dunk+during+the+Iowa+State+vs+Texas+Tech+game%2C+Hilton+Coliseum%2C+Feb.+17%2C+2024.
Matteo Bender
Tre King going up for a dunk during the Iowa State vs Texas Tech game, Hilton Coliseum, Feb. 17, 2024.

With the Big 12 Tournament quickly approaching, the Cyclones have to focus up for one of the last home games of the season as they host Oklahoma on Wednesday.

It would be easy for Iowa State to chalk the year up as a success already and prepare for the Big Dance on the horizon. Sitting at 21-6, the Cyclones are already a lock for a top seed in both the Big 12 Tournament and the NCAA Tournament.

However, taking each game and each day one at a time has been the driving force behind their success. Iowa State head coach T.J. Otzelberger has instilled the one-day-at-a-time mentality in the team, which will help them finish the regular season strong.

“Looking forward to the Big 12 Tournament and the NCAA Tournament, it’s really just keeping your focus on one game at a time,” Tamin Lipsey said. “That’s really what we’re trying to do—just lock in.”

Locking in has been the one thing the Cyclones have tried to do throughout the entire season. Although they have done so at times, stringing together a full 40 minutes will be crucial when the games start to get more and more important.

The recent scare at Hilton with the Cyclones playing close with West Virginia proved that the team still has room to grow. They may have strung together impressive wins and perfect stretches in games, but they are not content with where they are yet.

“We’re not going to strive for any standard other than our best. I still feel like our team hasn’t played our best yet,” Otzelberger said.

Otzelberger also said that there have been moments or games where they played at their best at times, but it has not happened for the entire 40 minutes.

Lapses in games have happened consistently even if the rest of the game plays out flawlessly. Big 12 teams have cut into Iowa State leads game after game and have come close to upsetting the Cyclones at times.

“Where we take our next step is playing well consistently and playing the whole 40 minutes. I think we do a great job of playing well as a team, but I think that we have a few lapses in games, like 2-3 minutes here and there where we don’t play our best or we aren’t as focused,”
Tre King said.

As Iowa State looks to host Oklahoma, the team must stay focused and take care of the challenge at hand. The first meeting between the two teams saw the Cyclones taking the loss on the road to start conference play 0-1.

However, the Cyclones have won 10 of their 13 games since that first game and are still undefeated at home. Not only that, but the newcomers to the Big 12 have gotten more comfortable with playing in such a difficult conference.

“We’re an entirely different team than we were close to two months ago when we played them,” Otzelberger said.

The biggest area of improvement has been the physicality of the team. Every game in recent weeks has been a grind, and Iowa State has come out still standing.

The physicality and grit it takes to play in the Big 12 is unmatched by any other conference in the nation, which is why the learning curve was high for many of the newer Cyclones.

“The first time we played, that was a lot of our guys’ very first Big 12 game, so a lot of them didn’t really know what it was like—the physicality, the toughness, how hard it is to win, especially on the road,” King said.

Along with improved physicality also comes improved defense as a whole. The Cyclones have settled into their role as one of the most defensively intense teams in the conference.

The pressure that Iowa State shows on defense is what helps it force turnovers, stuff opponents’ plays and create offense. With stops being a crucial part of the Cyclones’ game plan, they are ready to show Oklahoma how much they have improved since game one.

“We learned our lesson, learned a lot from the last time we played them because we didn’t do that,” Otzelberger said.

The Cyclones are set for their revenge game against Oklahoma at 7 p.m. Wednesday at Hilton Coliseum. The game will also be streamed live on ESPN+.

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