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Reactions from the court following the Big 12 Championship game

T.J.+Otzelberger+hoists+the+Big+12+Championship+trophy+after+Iowa+State+defeats+Houston+in+the+Big+12+Championship+69-41+at+the+mens+basketball+Big+12+Championship+game+against+Houston%2C+T-Mobile+Center%2C+Kansas+City%2C+March+16%2C+2024.
Tyler Coe
T.J. Otzelberger hoists the Big 12 Championship trophy after Iowa State defeats Houston in the Big 12 Championship 69-41 at the men’s basketball Big 12 Championship game against Houston, T-Mobile Center, Kansas City, March 16, 2024.

As the confetti filled the court at the T-Mobile Center, many players from the Iowa State men’s basketball team soaked in the lifelong memory they were experiencing and reflected on their journey as Big 12 Champions.

During the Cyclones’ 69-41 win over Houston in the conference tournament championship game, roars came from the overwhelming amount of Iowa State fans after every big play.

Whether it was a 3-pointer coming off a sweet stroke from Milan Momcilovic, a dish inside from Tamin Lipsey or Keshon Gilbert for a quick bucket or a back-breaking defensive stop, Cyclone Nation was on its feet all night.

“Just to see everyone yelling, screaming, smiling, happy,” Momcilovic said. “It makes us play a lot better. The crowd feeds off it, they get us going, so it is just really cool to see that.”

“Anywhere we are, Cyclone Nation is always behind us,” Robert Jones said. “The best traveled, best fans in the nation.”

Following the final buzzer, it was time to celebrate, with many Cyclones speechless and in awe of what they had just done. Beating the top defense in the nation, and running away with the game in the second half, Iowa State had shocked the world.

“I still don’t think it is real, I might be dreaming I don’t know,” Robert Jones said.

The moment was real, Jones was not dreaming.

The Cyclones were crowned conference tournament champions for the fifth time in 10 years and the first under head coach T.J. Otzelberger. Jones, one of the first transfers to join Otzelberger in 2021, soaked in the moment as he celebrated with his teammates.

Robert Jones holds the Big 12 Championship sign after Iowa State defeats Houston in the Big 12 Championship 69-41 at the men’s basketball Big 12 Championship game against Houston, T-Mobile Center, Kansas City, March 16, 2024. (Tyler Coe)

Jones’ frontcourt mate, Tre King, was also at a loss for words. While both starters finished the game with two points, King had one of his best rebounding games of the season against the Cougars, snagging nine off the glass.

“I’m on such a high right now,” King said. “I don’t have the words man. I’m tingling everywhere, I got butterflies in my stomach. I’m just happy for me and my guys.”

Heading into the game, the question of how Iowa State would attack Houston’s defense plagued the team’s chances of coming out on top. In their most recent matchup with the Cougars, it was clear the Cyclones were the underdogs when away from home.

Whether it was the amount of Iowa State fans in Kansas City, Missouri, cheering them on or the team’s will to prove the nation wrong, the Cyclones were determined to make sure their hard work did not go unnoticed.

“We don’t really care what the outside world thinks of us, that is why we are such a close group,” Lipsey said. “We just put our heads down and go to work and that is why I don’t think there is anyone else more deserving than our team to be in this position to celebrate this moment.”

While Lipsey and the rest of the Cyclones tend to tune out the noise, one thing that cannot go unnoticed is the position this win put the team in. Iowa State has essentially locked up a No. 2 seed in the NCAA Tournament and is now in consideration for a No. 1 seed given how other teams across the nation performed.

From here, it is all business for Otzelberger, as he and the Cyclones are still hungry for additional hardware.

“I’m probably not one to celebrate a whole lot or have fun with it all,” Otzelberger said. “We got a lot to play for. We just got to keep our focus on what is next and keep getting better.”

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