Iowa State travels to TCU with a clear call-to-action


Caleb Grill (right) and Aljaz Kunc (left) box out TCU’s Charles O’ Bannon in the Cyclones’ 59-44 loss on Jan. 22.

Matt Belinson

It’s desperation time for Iowa State men’s basketball in more ways than one.

The Cyclones, who once sat at No. 8 in the country on Jan. 1, have lost four-straight games and are last in the Big 12 with a 3-9 conference record.

The most recent addition to the pile of concerns for the Cyclones came Saturday against Kansas State in a must-win matchup in Hilton Coliseum.

But instead of turning the page and getting a win, the Wildcats won 75-69 in overtime after overcoming a 15-point deficit.

In the aftermath of the baffling loss, Iowa State head coach T.J. Otzelberger said his team didn’t want to win as much as Kansas State did. A sense of desperation was missing in the face of the most adversity the team had faced all season.

And now, Otzelberger is asking his group to get back to who they were when wins were being stacked up and confidence was soaring for Tuesday’s road game against TCU.

“Our guys want to win. There’s no doubt they want to win. There’s no doubt that they’re playing hard,” Otzelberger said. “For us, what we were doing at the start of the year wasn’t playing hard, it was playing harder than every single team in America. I would put that up against anybody.”

“We were playing with a level of urgency and desperation and physicality; we were turning people and we were essentially out-physicaling everybody.” 

A timely example of Iowa State’s (16-9, 3-9 Big 12) start on a downward slide began Jan. 22 in a 59-44 loss at Hilton Coliseum to TCU (16-6, 5-5 Big 12) in a game Iowa State lacked its usual ‘competitive spirit’ and willingness to dictate, according to Otzelberger.

In one of the worst offensive showings in program history, Iowa State shot 30.9 percent from the field, 11.5 percent from three and had one player in double-figures.

Over the last four losses, Iowa State has lacked intentionality and a hunger that defined the team in its 12 straight wins and encouraging start to league play.

But it’s not as simple as ‘play harder’ for Iowa State Tuesday and every game after.

As Otzelberger said, playing hard has been a constant for the Cyclones. But 3-9 doesn’t come out of nowhere.

At some point, and perhaps it will come out Tuesday in Fort Worth, Texas, Iowa State has to want to win — and make that the only option.

Time is running out to think otherwise.

“It wasn’t a bang-bang-bang change of fate. It was essentially they got to a couple loose balls, offensive rebounds quicker and converted those into points. We had five turnovers out of eight possessions,” Otzelberger said talking about Saturday’s loss to Kansas State. “It wasn’t a lack of wanting-to as much as demanding it.”

The Cyclones are 2-5 on the road this year and haven’t picked up a victory in Fort Worth since Jan. 23, 2016.

Iowa State and TCU tip off at 8 p.m. Tuesday in Fort Worth. The game will be broadcast on ESPNU.