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‘We lost focus’: Kansas State’s defense mirrors Iowa State in road loss

Tyler Coe
Milan Momcilovic dives after a loose ball against Kansas State at Bramlage Coliseum on March 9, 2024.

MANHATTAN, Kansas — Iowa State ended its regular season on a low note, as Kansas State stole the Cyclones’ defensive identity and ran away with the road matchup 65-58.

Going into the game, it was expected that defense would be the key to victory for either team. When the dust settled at Bramlage Coliseum, the Wildcats came out on top by doing what Iowa State does best: turning defense into offense.

When the Cyclones were pushed to focus up and lock in, they did not. Throughout the season, Iowa State head coach T.J. Otzelberger preached about staying focused and taking things one game at a time, but following the loss, he pointed to one simple issue.

“I think we lost focus today,” Otzelberger said.

With the Big 12 Tournament on the horizon, it was easy to lose focus on the game at hand. Although the Cyclones were focused on the game at hand, as time rolled on, that focus started to slip.

The Cyclones held onto a nine-point lead early in the game, as they battled back-and-forth with Kansas State. That lead disappeared in the blink of an eye when Kansas State started hitting its 3-pointers.

Early on, Iowa State’s defense was airtight. Not a single three was let up through Kansas State’s first eight attempts. However, the Wildcats knocked down their next three shots from beyond the arc to take a lead which they never relinquished.

Iowa State’s fire on defense was gone. The Cyclones were no longer locked in.

“Losing focus on the defensive side,” Tamin Lipsey said. “When we get stops, our offensive sort of just flows better.”

The Cyclones rely heavily on their defense. Forcing turnovers and using those turnovers to create opportunities on offense is the name of the game.

So when the turnovers were not coming, the offense was not coming. When that happened midway through the first half, the Cyclones tried to brute force their way back into the game, but Kansas State was not budging.

“I feel like we get in stretches where we try to force things, take bad shots,” Lipsey said. “That’s where we have lapses and teams make runs.”

At the end of the day, Kansas State had more runs. Iowa State could not get stops on defense when it mattered, and Kansas State was making the most of its opportunities.

Otzelberger said that Kansas State was the more physical and aggressive team. Those are two categories that Iowa State hangs its hat on.

With five minutes left in the first half and Kansas State out in front, it was clear that the Wildcats had stolen the Cyclones’ identity. They were the more physically defensive team.

Keshon Gilbert moves the ball forward during the Iowa State vs. Kansas State men’s basketball game, Fred Bramlage Coliseum, Manhattan, Kansas, Mar. 9, 2024. (Jacob Rice)

“They did a better job of some of the areas that we take pride in,” Otzelberger said.

Kansas State was outrebounding Iowa State, especially on the offensive glass. The Wildcats were also outscoring the Cyclones in the paint through most of the game.

Along with that, Iowa State was turning the ball over at a high clip, and even had more turnovers than Kansas State for most of the game. Although the two teams were neck-and-neck in turnovers, the Wildcats significantly outscored the Cyclones in points off turnovers.

“The points off turnovers is probably as clear of a stat as you can look at for our team to see where our focus, where our effort is at,” Otzelberger said.

Kansas State was doubling Iowa State in that stat throughout the game, as the Cyclones pulled it slightly closer by finishing with 11. But that 11-mark is well below Iowa State’s standard, according to Otzelberger.

With Kansas State feeding off its home atmosphere, the Cyclones could not string together a comeback and dropped the game in the waning minutes.

Despite the off night on defense from the Cyclones, Otzelberger is sure the team will brush the loss off fast and get back to their winning ways.

“That’s who we are, that’s what we do and that’s what we will get back to doing,” Otzelberger said.

At the end of the day, it came down to focus. Now that the dust has cleared, the Cyclones are ready to regain focus on the job at hand: making a run in both the Big 12 and the NCAA Tournaments.

“We didn’t have focus today, it’s a one-game deal, credit to [Kansas State], they made us pay, onto the next game,” Otzelberger said.

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