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Cyclones not underestimating UCF on Orlando trip

Tamin+Lipsey+goes+in+for+a+layup+during+the+Iowa+State+vs+Oklahoma+basketball+game+at+Hilton+Coliseum%2C+Feb.+28%2C+2024.
Elizabeth Lane
Tamin Lipsey goes in for a layup during the Iowa State vs Oklahoma basketball game at Hilton Coliseum, Feb. 28, 2024.

As the season quickly comes to an end, the Cyclones have to lock in and finish strong as they will be on upset watch in Orlando, Florida, with UCF looking to knock off a hot Iowa State team.

UCF is a team that cannot be looked past given its reputation in Big 12 play. With ranked teams falling in Orlando regularly, the Cyclones cannot treat it like just another game.

Despite the excitement of the Big 12 Tournament creeping into the team’s mind, they know what is still at stake and plan to take care of business in Orlando.

“Obviously, [the Big 12 Tournament is] inching closer and closer, so naturally you’re gonna feel excited about that,” Tamin Lipsey said. “At the same time, you just gotta lock in and finish the regular season out strong.”

Locking in will be the key to avoid an upset against UCF, as the Knights have made sure teams prepare for them.

UCF has a handle of wins at home that should be concerning to any ranked teams that look to underestimate it. The Knights started the season taking down a high-ranked Kansas team. They also took down a ranked Oklahoma team and more recently a ranked Texas Tech team.

“We’ve obviously seen what they’ve been doing, especially at home,” Lipsey said. “Just go in there, compete and play a full 40 minutes and do whatever we gotta do to win.”

The Cyclones may be planning to compete hard for the full 40 minutes, but the Knights are also going in with a similar game plan. UCF tends to thrive as the underdog no matter where it plays.

The Knights have had solid outings against ranked teams, which could spell trouble for a top-10 Iowa State team.

“Having that number beside the name for whoever you’re going against definitely adds that extra bit of juice, extra bit of fire to you,” Tre King said.

Along with that extra juice from being underdogs, home-court advantage is very real in the Big 12. Every team knows the importance of defending home court, and UCF is no different.

“Any home game is a big one for you in the Big 12, because those are the ones you can’t really afford to miss,” King said.

With those factors on the table, the Cyclones know they cannot look past UCF. King said that the hopes of taking down a top-10 team at home, “ups the ante,” for the Knights.

Despite all that, the Cyclones are still confident in their ability to roll through UCF. The Knights sport significant size and outstanding guard play, which complement each other and force teams to guard the paint a little better.

“They’ve got a lot of size. They’re one of the bigger teams in the conference,” Lipsey said.

Given how physical UCF is when driving into the paint, the Cyclones have to game plan against the physicality.

Lipsey said if they can keep the Knights out of the paint, they can force the guards to take tough shots from outside. With the struggles the Knights have had at hitting shots in Big 12 play, Lipsey’s plan is sound.

Even with the presence in the paint that UCF plans to have, the Cyclones are not ready to back down. The Knights may be large and athletic, but Iowa State is not scared one bit.

“At this point in the season, we’ve gone up against everything. Nothing comes as a surprise anymore,” King said.

UCF also falls into a similar boat as Iowa State in recent weeks. When shots are not falling, defense is the name of the game.

The Cyclones have hung their hat on defense throughout the season, more so in recent games, and UCF has done the same. With both teams planning to play physical, Iowa State is not looking to do anything special.

Iowa State head coach T.J. Otzelberger said keeping it simple will mean continuing to play stifling defense, playing with pace on defense and attacking the paint.

“That’s kind of our standard, but that’s what it looks like it’ll be for them,” Otzelberger said.

The Cyclones are set to take on UCF at 3 p.m. Saturday in Orlando, Florida. The game will also be streamed live on Big 12 Now on ESPN+.

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