Three Big Takeaways: Cyclones hold on for victory in NCAA Tournament over LSU


Jacob Rice/Iowa State Daily

Iowa State Head Coach T.J. Otzelberger yells instructions to the Cyclones during their 72-41 loss on March 10 to Texas Tech at the Big 12 Men’s Basketball Championship.

James Powell

The Cyclones came into this NCAA Tournament just a year removed from winning two games the entire 2020-2021 season.

They already have at least one NCAA Tournament victory.

It was hard-fought and hotly-contested from the word “go”. Nothing came easy for Iowa State in Fiserv Forum in Milwaukee, Wis., in their first-round matchup with the LSU Tigers.

The 11-seeded Cyclones came away with a 59-54 win over the Tigers and they did it in large part thanks to a heroic performance from Tyrese Hunter, enough three-pointers made to survive and being able to play “their way” long enough to come out of the first round with an upset victory.

Hunter plays hero late

It hasn’t all been smooth sailing for the freshman point guard. Hunter has had games with more turnovers than assists and never really developed any sort of offensive rhythm in his first year under T.J. Otzelberger.

For better or worse, Otzelberger put his trust as a first-year head coach in Hunter to lead the charge as they both ushered in a new era of Cyclone basketball.

Friday night, Hunter certainly made his mark.

He had a career-high seven three-point makes to aid his point total of 23. Hunter also poured in three assists and five steals.

No shot was bigger on the evening, or even the season, than a three-point make with under a minute to play to give his team a two-possession lead and ice the game for his team.

Hunter’s 23 points are the most by a freshman in the NCAA tournament in Cyclone history. He also was just the second player in tournament history with at least seven makes from deep and at least five steals.

The other? Stephen Curry.

Cyclones fall in love with the three-pointer

All year long, the Cyclones’ desire to make three-point shooting the main component of their offense has been met with little success and lots of poor shooting nights from long range.

Tonight was no different, as they shot 32 percent from three-point range, making 12 of their 37 attempts.

The 37 attempts is their most this season, and their 12 makes are second-most in a game. Iowa State made 13 in their game against Grambling early in non-conference play.

Both Iowa State and LSU were unable to generate consistent touches in the paint in order to develop a post presence, and it led to lots of jump-shots, most of them coming from long range.

The Tigers hit on just four of their 19 attempts from three-point, good for a 21 percent shooting clip.

Iowa State plays, and wins, their way

As little as catching fire from deep as been in the Cyclones’ arsenal, they’ve almost always won games by being the aggressor on both ends and forcing their opponent into tough shot after tough shot.

The Cyclones performance on defense was a familiar sight for Otzelberger and his team. 

Iowa State forced 19 total turnovers against an LSU squad who averages about 14 giveaways per game. The Tigers were persistent and successful in their full-court trapping of Iowa State, and most of those successes came off of made baskets.

It was a total team effort, as most performances akin to Iowa State’s in their first round game have been this season.

In addition to Hunter nabbing the five steals, Gabe Kalscheur and Izaiah Brockington each had three and Caleb Grill and Aljaz Kunc each put in two.

Kunc also had two blocks, as did his big-man counterpart George Conditt.

The aggressiveness and ball pressure that Otzelberger has harped on since his opening press conference clearly came to play in Milwaukee, and it appeared to frustrate LSU as the first half winded down.

Iowa State gave up just 18 points in the first half, the lowest the Tigers have managed to score in a first half this season.