Cyclones, Mountaineers face off in Morgantown in must-win matchup


Collin Maguire/Iowa State Daily

Izaiah Brockington dunks the ball over Kansas forward Mitch Lightfoot on Feb. 1.

Matt Belinson

Iowa State and West Virginia are both in need of a win Tuesday in Morgantown, W.VA.

But T.J. Otzelberger doesn’t just want the Cyclones to want the win — he’s looking to see a sense of desperation to come out of them and a willingness to fight in a hostile environment.

Iowa State (16-7, 3-7 Big 12) and West Virginia (13-9, 2-7 Big 12) are both in the bottom third of the Big 12 standings and are in the midst of adversity as the two clash Tuesday night.

West Virginia has lost seven in a row and is currently last place in the Big 12, while the Cyclones have lost four of their last five Big 12 games.

Again — Tuesday night has a sense of desperation to it. And Otzelberger wants Iowa State to embrace the challenge.

Tuesday will be the first meeting of the year between the Mountaineers and Cyclones. Does that benefit or hinder Iowa State in a crucial game?

“I don’t know about advantage or disadvantage. Both teams are needing a win,” Otzelberger said Monday. “We need to be the team that’s more desperate and urgent to do that.”

“Right now, we’re focused on ‘let’s try to be the team that we know we need to be in Morgantown tomorrow night, come out with a win and then go from there.’”

The Cyclones are coming off a 63-41 loss at Texas on Saturday, putting Iowa State’s offense back under the microscope. Iowa State shot 29 percent from the field in the loss — the team’s lowest field goal percentage all season — and matched a conference-high with 18 turnovers.

Otzelberger said Iowa State will have to move the ball, play for each other and work to be intentional possession to possession. This comes after the Cyclones had a total of five assists in Saturday’s loss to the Longhorns.

But Otzelberger said the Cyclones can ease those issues by playing even slower than they already are and go into offensive possessions with a plan of attack, rather than a rushed three or reckless pass.

“We just need to continue to embrace our mentality and our mindset and who we can be because we don’t have any other choice,” Otzelberger said. “There’s no other team we can be, there’s not an adjustment, there’s not a different way to do it. It’s be better at what we do.”

The Cyclones have lost five in a row to West Virginia, and their last win in Morgantown was Jan 10, 2015.

The improvements start on the glass, where West Virginia isn’t exactly the ‘big-bad-wolf’ it’s accustomed to being.

Since the 2014-15 season, West Virginia has led the Big 12 in offensive rebounding. Ahead of Tuesday night, the Mountaineers are currently sixth in the league and have the worst overall rebounding margin in the league at -3.3.

“That’s something we need to be intentional about,” Otzelberger said of offensive rebounding. “If our guys know where the shots come from, that gives us a better chance to be in position on the offensive rebounding side of things.”

West Virginia head coach Bob Huggins, who has led the Mountaineers since 2007, praised Iowa State’s style of play under Otzelberger. The Big 12 stalwart said the Cyclones bring physicality to each game they play, and West Virginia will have to match the energy level or risk being embarrassed on their home floor.

Huggins was asked Monday how he gets the Mountaineers to continue playing hard and matching their opponents’ intensity amidst the seven-game skid.

“I would think showing them the standings would do it,” Huggins said. “It would for me.”

Iowa State and West Virginia square off at 6 p.m. Tuesday. The game will be broadcast on ESPN+.