Three Big Takeaways: Cyclones left with few options after loss to TCU


Jacob Rice/Iowa State Daily

Izaiah Brockington scored 19 points in the Cyclones’ 59-44 loss to TCU on Jan. 22.

Matt Belinson

AMES — Humbling. That’s what Saturday’s 15-point loss at home to TCU felt like for T.J. Otzelberger and the Cyclones.

This team’s offensive struggles have appeared more often than not this season, with the Cyclones shooting sub-30 percent from three for the sixth time this season against the Horned Frogs.

But Saturday was quite-literally historic in terms of offensive ineptitude. The Cyclones fell to TCU 59-44, good for the fewest points scored in the history of Hilton Coliseum.

Staring at a 2-5 record in what Otzelberger has repeatedly called the best league in the country, there’s not much the Cyclones can do but respond according to their head coach.

Otzelberger saw his team become their own worst enemy Saturday — letting bad offense turn into hesitation and lack of effort.

“When you sign up to play for the Iowa State Cyclones in the Big 12 Conference, that’s really not an option,” Otzelberger said of letting the mental aspect of the game get to you. “The option is that you work really hard, you demand a lot of yourself and that what you work on every day and how you work every day comes out in the reality of the game.”

What can be done about this team’s offense?

Unsurprisingly, Otzelberger’s answer to that question started with defensive intangibles postgame.

It’s no secret to Otzelberger that his team was purposely constructed with a defense-first approach. And it’s why his solution to fixing the Cyclones’ offense starts there.

“Now, it comes down to understanding making shots has a lot more to do with dictating defensively and creating those opportunities and then offense will come around and shot-making as well,” Otzelberger said postgame.

A familiar sight was Izaiah Brockington doing most of the offensive work for Iowa State. The senior guard scored 12 of Iowa State’s 23 first half points along with five rebounds. He’d continue to be the leading – and only consistent – option for the rest of the afternoon. Brockington finished with 19 points, shooting 8-14 from the field.

The rest of the Cyclones went a combined 9-41 from the field, including 3-25 from three.

When the Cyclones have been at their best, or at least not historically bad, on offense, it has started from defense as Otzelberger said.

Iowa State has worked best working off turnovers and getting easier looks for its playmakers. Despite 15 Horned Frogs turnovers, the Cyclones never found themselves in transition.

“That’s not an acceptable effort, not at any point in time based on the way we work in our program,” Otzelberger said postgame.

When it’s going that badly on offense overall, Brockington said a bigger and bigger hole begins to form. The Cyclones were holding the shovel on Saturday and couldn’t stop digging deeper.

And yet, despite the offensive issues, Iowa State cut it to 36-33 with 13:38 left to play.

And then TCU went on a quick 6-0 run and cruised to victory from there. It was at that point, down only three, Brockington felt Iowa State had its best chance to take control.

But poor execution prevented that from happening.

“That was probably our best chance,” Brockington said of cutting it to 36-33. “But, I mean, we can’t dig ourselves a hole like that in the first place. In this league, it’s going to be really hard to dig yourself out of something like that.”

Tyrese Hunter dips in production

A lot can change in the Big 12 over the course of a week. Tyrese Hunter is a prime example.

After playing what Otzelberger called ‘his best college game’ against Texas on Jan. 15, Hunter’s last two games have been another piece of education on life in the Big 12.

Hunter finished Saturday’s loss with five points, shooting 2-9 from the floor. The Cyclones’ freshman point guard added five rebounds and four assists to his day. 

But he also had six turnovers. In his last two games, Hunter has scored nine points and committed nine turnovers to go with just six total assists.

The Cyclones knew coming into the year they would be riding the wave of starting a freshman in the Big 12. Over his last two, Hunter appears to be nearing the deep end.

It’s now or never in the Big 12

Iowa State has won just one of its last five games, setting the end of January up for a crucial stretch if hopes of a NCAA Tournament berth are to remain reasonable. 

Luckily for Iowa State, the opponents down the road aren’t as formidable a stretch as the start of league play proved to be.

The Cyclones return to action Wednesday at Oklahoma State, then return to Hilton for a matchup with Missouri in the Big 12/SEC Challenge on Jan. 29. After that, the Cyclones host Kansas and then travel to Austin to take on Texas and Morgantown to face the Mountaineers.