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Three Big Takeaways: Cyclones pounced by Wildcats in regular season finale

Tyler Coe
Tamin Lipsey walks off the floor after Kansas State defeats Iowa State 65-58 at Bramlage Coliseum on March 9, 2024.

MANHATTAN, Kansas — Several offensive droughts combined with an unusual defensive presence from the Cyclones resulted in a 65-58 loss on the road to Kansas State heading into the postseason.

In Iowa State’s regular-season finale with the Wildcats, the Cyclones failed to play their style of basketball. Iowa State was outplayed in its usual categories that win games, and a hot shooting day for the Wildcats only made it harder for the Cyclones to come back.

Kansas State answered back with every punch that Iowa State had to offer, and sent the conference championship-hopeful Cyclones into Kansas City with a sour taste.

Wildcats strike last in the first half

Iowa State set the tone with an 11-0 run early in the first half, fueled by forcing tough shots and executing in transition.

The Cyclones would cool off and went on a nearly six-minute long scoring drought while the Wildcats charged their way back with shots inside. Kansas State’s offense started to click as they worked their way into the paint and connected on contested layups.

Curtis Jones connected on his second three of the game to extend the Cyclones’ scoring drive to 7-0.

Kansas State answered again with a 14-1 run to cut Iowa State’s lead to two. The Cyclones went on a 3:30-minute scoring drought during the Wildcats’ offensive surge where they connected on five of its six attempts from the field, including a trio of shots from outside.

Back-to-back 3-pointers from Kansas State gave the team its first lead of the half since the first two minutes of the game. The Wildcats’ hot shooting from the floor built up a six-point lead with under a minute left before halftime.

A large part of the Cyclones’ offensive lulls was due to their inability to force turnovers, an area they have typically dominated this season. This allowed Kansas State to hunt and connect on more shots and left Iowa State scrambling for different ways to produce offensively.

“When we get stops our offense just flows better,” Tamin Lipsey said. “I feel like we get in stretches where we try to force things, take bad shots, and that is where we have lapses and teams make runs.”

Although they strung together shots in the final minutes to cut the Wildcats’ lead down to four, the Cyclones’ failure to stay consistent on offense was a glaring issue going into halftime.

Wildcats continue to answer back

The Wildcats continued their dominant offense at the start of the second half with a 12-2 run, with Iowa State failing to connect on shots from every level. This turned into a 17-9 start to the second half for Kansas State, which gave the Wildcats a 12-point lead with 11:54 left to play.
Iowa State had five turnovers in the opening nine minutes of the second half which the Wildcats continued to turn into points and beat the Cyclones in transition.

“We lost focus today,” head coach T.J. Otzelberger said. “We settle for a lot of early clock jump shots, we had costly turnovers that are uncharacteristic of our team.”

Seven of the nine previously mentioned points for the Cyclones came in a 69-second span, following a four-minute scoring drought that saw the Wildcats build up their lead. This sparked a run for Iowa State that put Kansas State on its heels defensively.

What ended up being a 10-0 run from Iowa State cut the Wildcats’ lead to five with seven minutes left in the game. This newfound fire in the Cyclones’ offense gave hope for another return to form that they have displayed in their last few games which kept them alive.

This merely served as a momentary break for the Wildcats, who were not ready to let Iowa State pull off another second-half comeback.

Keshon Gilbert attempts a layup but is blocked by Kansas State Arthur Kaluma during the Iowa State vs. Kansas State men’s basketball game, Fred Bramlage Coliseum, Manhattan Kansas, Mar. 9, 2024. (Jacob Rice)

The Cyclones followed up their hopeful drive with a 2:30-minute scoring drought, which the Wildcats took advantage of with a pair of buckets to rebuild their comfortable lead. From this point to the final buzzer, the Wildcats maintained control.

Despite multiple efforts from Iowa State to put itself in position for a last-minute comeback, the Wildcats held on with dagger shots on the other side.

Kansas State had an answer for every run that the Cyclones worked for down the stretch and were doing so with high-energy threes and crowd-erupting dunks.

Uncharacteristic performance for the Cyclones on both ends

Whether it was forcing shots offensively, not staying tight defensively or coughing the ball up Iowa State was not itself against the Wildcats.

“We were not aggressive guarding the basketball,” Otzelberger said. “We have a higher standard for our guys when it comes down to being able to generate points off our defense.”

The Cyclones’ inability to force turnovers resulted in Kansas State having more opportunities from the field and having to create shots. Iowa State finished with nine fewer points off turnovers than Kansas State and was outpaced multiple times in each half.

It has shown many times this season that when Iowa State is forced to make adjustments mid game, the scrambling gets the best of the Cyclones. Kansas State took advantage of the momentum swings it got throughout the game, and kept the Cyclones playing from behind.

With the Big 12 Tournament right around the corner, Otzelberger and his team are looking to put this behind them and focus on what is ahead. Although for the Cyclones to make a run, one thing is clear to the third-year head coach for the Cyclones.

“We got to be better than what we were,” Otzelberger said.

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