Iowa State going back to basics on the road vs Cowboys


Jacob Rice/Iowa State Daily

Tristan Enaruna sits on the bench during the Cyclones’ 59-44 loss to TCU on Jan. 22.

Matt Belinson

T.J. Otzelberger has tasked the No. 23 Iowa State men’s basketball team with a mission: get back to being themselves.

After dropping two-straight Big 12 games and losing four of their last five, the Cyclones’ head coach believes Wednesday’s road test at Oklahoma State could be a chance to get back to who they want to be.

“I’m not sure why we didn’t have a greater sense of urgency on Saturday,” Otzelberger said to reporters Monday. “It is something we’ve talked about, it is something we’ve practiced, but for whatever reason, it is the one game in the league that I felt like we didn’t start with that aggressor mentality. We’ve got to get back to that.”

According to Otzelberger, Iowa State (14-5, 2-5 Big 12) was without its usual edge Saturday against TCU as the Cyclones scored 44 points in their loss to the Horned Frogs — the fewest points scored in Hilton Coliseum history.

Iowa State scored 10 points off turnovers and shot 3-26 from three, with the former being an out-of-character stat to see at the end of the game.

Heading to Stillwater, Okla. on Wednesday won’t make things easier for the Cyclones. The Cowboys rank second in the Big 12 in holding their opponents to 39.1 shooting from the field.

Just another night in what Otzelberger has called the toughest league in college basketball.

“I think a lot of our league is in the top 10 in the country for defense, and most, if not all, are in the top 25 or 30,” Otzelberger said. “So, they have length, they force turnovers, they have switch-ability, and so, certainly, as you see around the league, the best way to combat that is to make perimeter shots.”

However, the Cyclones rank ninth in the Big 12 in three-point shooting, averaging 26.8 percent from deep in their seven conference games. 

Come Wednesday in Stillwater, Otzelberger said perimeter shots might be the easiest answer for most teams, but for the Cyclones, it’ll come down to being stubborn enough to hunt for better shots for this team’s style of offense.

The Cyclones will run multiple actions and wind down possessions to their will when things are clicking — a strategy Otzelberger trusts is the answer for Wednesday night and moving forward.

Izaiah Brockington will likely be the starting point for Iowa State’s hopes of an offensive turnaround. Brockington ranks fourth in the Big 12 in scoring at 16.4 points per game and averages a league-leading 8.2 rebounds a game.

The problem is, no other Cyclone outside of Brockington ranks in the top-20 in the league in either category.

Although, Otzelberger’s worry isn’t focused on finding additional scoring at face value. In his assessment, Wednesday will be decided by who the aggressor is and how physical the Cyclones can be.

And after the way last week transpired, that’s all he really wants to see for himself and his team.

“You know, this past week against Tech, physically, I felt like we got it taken to us earlier in the week, and then, I didn’t like our intent and physicality when we weren’t the aggressor on Saturday,” Otzelberger said.

No. 23 Iowa State (14-5, 2-5 Big 12) and Oklahoma State (10-8, 3-4 Big 12) will tip-off at 7 p.m. The game will be broadcast on Big 12 Now on ESPN+.