Three Big Takeaways: Cyclones survive, Hunter breaks out in Manhattan

Iowa State guard Tyrese Hunter moves up-court against Oklahoma on Feb. 19

Matt Belinson

Make it four in-a-row.

Iowa State (20-9, 7-9 Big 12) cracked the 20-win mark on Saturday with a 74-70 win over Kansas State (14-14, 6-10 Big 12), good for the first 20-win season for the program since the 2018-19 season — which was also the last time the program made the NCAA Tournament.

In a game that almost ended in a near-collapse for Iowa State, the Cyclones won their fourth game in a row and increased their chances of returning to the ‘Big Dance.’

No collapse this time

The definition of collapse in basketball terms is pretty broad, but Iowa State didn’t provide a clear-cut example of it Saturday.

In the last matchup between the two on Feb. 12, Iowa State led Kansas State by 15 points with 19 minutes left in the game. And then, the Cyclones scored a combined 29 points in the second half and overtime and gave the Wildcats the 75-69 win at Hilton.

The deja vu was starting to set in as the second half ticked down in Manhattan on Saturday, with the Cyclones turning the ball over and giving Kansas State easy free throws and open looks to claw back in it.

Iowa State led 56-43 with 11:42 left to play on Saturday and then the metaphorical slide whistle came in. The Wildcats cut it to a seven-point game with seven minutes left. And then two. And over the last four minutes, it was a cage match to determine the victor.

The Cyclones turned the ball over 18 times for the game, including 11 in the second half. Gabe Kalscheur turned the ball over on multiple inbounds plays and ended the game with five turnovers and five personal fouls.

Iowa State made things close in the final portion of the game, turning it over three times in the final 1:40.

But a steal by Jaden Walker, along with two Aljaz Kunc free throws sealed the win for the Cyclones on the road.

Tyrese Hunter breaks out

No stage has seemed too big for the freshman point guard from Racine, Wis., this year. But on Saturday, Tyrese Hunter took his game to another level and shot himself up into the history book.

Hunter was the first to score for the Cyclones with two early free throws, but it was his playmaking that stole the show. As he was slicing Kansas State up on offense, Hunter got others involved in the first half.

He walked into the break with five points and eight assists, putting him third on Iowa State’s list for most steals by a freshman in a single season.

The players he passed to get there? That would be Monté Morris and Will Blalock.

Hunter finished with 10 assists, giving him 139 for his young career. Over the final two regular season games, he needs eight assists to break the record set by Gary Thompkins in the 1984-85 season.

1. 146 Gary Thompkins (1984-85)

2. 143 Curtis Stinson (2003-04)

3. 139 Tyrese Hunter

4. 134 Monté Morris (2013-14), Will Blalock (2003-04)

Hunter’s 10-assist outing makes him the first Cyclone to meet that mark since Tyrese Haliburton did it on Jan. 4, 2020, against TCU.

Along with his record-setting assist numbers, his 13 points gave him his first career double-double. He finished with 13 points, seven rebounds and 10 assists.

Over his last three games, Hunter is averaging 8.6 assists.

Grilling season

Hunter wasn’t the only Cyclone to turn up their respective play on Saturday, as Caleb Grill took the cover off the ole’ George Foreman and let it fly down in Manhattan.

Grill made Iowa State’s first two baskets — two three-pointers off assists from Hunter — and took over from there.

The junior from Wichita, Kan., ended with 18 points on 6-10 shooting from deep. Grill went 4-7 from beyond the arc in the first half for 12 points.

He came into Saturday with six made threes over his last five games and a combined 10 points in those five games.

But the Cyclones’ best three-point shooter with a minimum of 100 attempts (36.4 percent coming in) caught fire once again.

Grill matched a season-high with his six made triples and led the Cyclones in scoring.

The Cyclones return to action at 6 p.m. Wednesday for Senior Night at Hilton Coliseum against Oklahoma State.