Cyclones want to protect home court in key tilt against TCU


Collin Maguire/Iowa State Daily

Tyrese Hunter talks with Texas guard Marcus Carr during the Cyclones’ 79-70 win over the Longhorns on Jan. 15 in Hilton Coliseum.

James Powell

Is the ‘magic’ back?

It sure seemed to be against Texas in the Cyclones’ last home game and there were certainly flashes in the non-conference slate, particularly against Iowa.

Now, six games into the Big 12 conference schedule, Iowa State welcomes the TCU Horned Frogs to Hilton Coliseum Saturday. This is the fourth home game for the Cyclones in Big 12 play, with wins against No. 18 Texas Tech and No. 23 Texas and a loss on New Year’s Day against the No. 5 Baylor Bears.

‘Hilton Magic’ was one of the first phrases uttered by T.J. Otzelberger in his first remarks after accepting the Iowa State job. He wanted to bring it back in a big way.

Flash forward to home games so far this season and there have certainly been instances where home-court appeared to play a positive role. The fans rally behind defensive effort, steals and hustle plays, which has been music to Otzelberger’s ears.

Not only the coaches, but the players as well are likely welcoming a little bit of ‘magic’ as they try and compete in this rigorous conference. Caleb Grill, a player who has had two different go-arounds in Ames, knows how important it is to protect home-court, especially in a league like the Big 12.

“Any game at Hilton [Coliseum] is significant for us,” Grill said. “We feel like we need to win out at Hilton the rest of the year, so obviously winning every home game is a goal that we have… you know how crazy the league has been so far.”

Winning home games is a high priority for any team. Letting any opponent come in and win means you didn’t protect “your house”. And with every team playing each other home and away in the Big 12, it’s amplified even more knowing you’ll have to travel to their gym eventually.

Iowa State is 11-1 at home this season, with its lone loss to aforementioned Baylor. They’ve done a good job of making life tough on opponents all season long, but they’ve started to once again establish the home-court advantage that has made them tough to play against in Ames over the years.

The Horned Frogs (12-3, 2-2 Big 12) don’t come in as a ranked team, but they are far from a slouch with a strong 12-3 record. They have Big 12 wins over Kansas State and Oklahoma and losses to Baylor and Oklahoma State.

They are led by sophomore guard Mike Miles, who averages 16.3 points per game and 4.3 assists through the 14 games he’s competed in thus far.

As a team, TCU is first in the Big 12 in rebounding, both offensive and defensive. The Horned Frogs average 15.1 offensive boards a game, almost two better than the next best team in that category.

On the flip side, Iowa State ranks eighth in the conference in defensive rebounding, pulling down an average of 23.7 defensive rebounds per game.

Their efforts on the glass are led by Izaiah Brockington, averaging eight boards per game, good for second in the conference. Supplemental pieces include post-men George Conditt, Robert Jones and Aljaz Kunc.

In their loss to Texas Tech, all three of the Iowa State “big men” fouled out. The Cyclones are hoping they can stay in the game against TCU and their head coach knows the importance of winning that margin come Saturday.

“If our ball pressure is good and they don’t get the ball in the paint… you’re able to stay between your man and the basket easier,” Otzelberger said. “When [TCU] is getting offensive rebounds, they’re really tough… when you’re giving them 15, 16 offensive second-chance opportunities, that makes it really difficult to be successful against them.”

Ball pressure has been a calling card of Otzelberger’s defensive efforts so far this season, and he’ll need it from his team consistently to avoid falling to 2-5 in the Big 12.