No. 15 Cyclones ready for a physical battle against No. 18 Texas Tech


Collin Maguire/Iowa State Daily

Iowa State talks during a huddle in a 79-70 win against Texas on Jan. 15.

Matt Belinson

The words “physical” and “physicality” were uttered by T.J. Otzelberger 29 times when he previewed Tuesday’s road matchup against Texas Tech. And if the previous matchup Jan. 5 was any indication, another Big 12 slugfest could be in store.

Otzelberger watched as the Cyclones made three baskets in the second half of their 51-47 win over the Red Raiders on Jan. 5, shooting 15 percent from the field.

But after the win in early January, Otzelberger and his group didn’t shy away from the second-half mess on offense.

Izaiah Brockington, Iowa State’s leading scorer, called it a “rock fight.”

And after taking care of the Longhorns on Saturday with toughness and a physical style of play, don’t think for a second that Otzelberger wants his group to turn that off. It’ll be critical to have this time around.

Rock fight? Iowa State is more comfortable getting down in the mud and scrapping for wins like they did Jan. 5.

“I think our guys have shown they can play that style of game and win that style of game,” Otzelberger said of the “rock fight” that was the last matchup between the Cyclones and Red Raiders.

Texas Tech made life difficult for Iowa State on offense last time out, but physical play is just a typical night in the Big 12. Otzelberger said Iowa State has to understand some games you might not score for multiple possessions in a row. But that’s OK. Iowa State is built for a physical brawl.

“I think that’s a game we’ve prepared our guys mentally that we know we can do well in,” Otzelberger said.

Ever since falling to Iowa State on Jan. 5, the Red Raiders have been one of the hottest teams in the Big 12. Texas Tech defeated Kansas by eight points, took down previously undefeated Baylor on the road, thumped Oklahoma State by 21 and most recently lost to Kansas State on Saturday.

Texas Tech was without its two leading scorers, Terrence Shannon Jr. and Kevin McCullar, in the previous matchup with the Cyclones, but both are expected to play Tuesday.

Without them, Texas Tech shot 38 percent from the field, and 17 percent from three Jan. 5, the worst the Red Raiders have shot in conference play this season.

“I think it’s an intentionality to how we do everything, when is it time to push, when is time to pull it out? When we go to the elbows, it’s gotta be physical. When we drive the ball it’s got to be with physical force, toughness,” Otzelberger said.

Coupled with 15 Texas Tech turnovers, the second half wasn’t exactly pretty. Iowa State went the first seven minutes of the second half without scoring, and the Red Raiders made just one of their first seven attempts.

What has to change come Tuesday to make the game go smoother for Iowa State?

For starters, physical play in the paint wouldn’t hurt.

The Red Raiders outscored the Cyclones 28-6 in the paint Jan. 5, the largest margin the Cyclones have been out-gained in conference play up to this point.

But Robert Jones might be able to help with that. The Denver transfer is averaging 7.5 points in his last two games, enough for Otzelberger to offer up a nickname to his 6-foot-9 forward.

“We call Robert’ instant impact.’ That’s his nickname because we believe when he comes in the game he has that ability to impact the game on that first possession,” Otzelberger said. “Certainly a lot of that impact comes with how physical he plays.”

Iowa State and Texas Tech will tip-off at 8 p.m. Tuesday at United Supermarkets Arena. The game will be broadcast on ESPNU.