Three Big Takeaways: Cyclones let one slip away in Allen Fieldhouse


Aljaz Kunc celebrates after hitting a three-pointer against the University of Kansas on Jan. 11 in Allen Fieldhouse.

Matt Belinson

It was a typical rowdy atmosphere Tuesday night at Allen Fieldhouse, with the No. 15 Cyclones and No. 9 Kansas Jayhawks facing off in a highly competitive conference clash.

Iowa State fell to the Jayhawks 62-61, dropping to 1-3 in league play.

All patrons were required to wear face masks during the game, but the roars from the stands only grew louder as the night went on as the Cyclones struggled on the offensive end for most of the second half.

With the loss, Iowa State has now gone five-consecutive seasons without beating Kansas in Allen Fieldhouse. The Cyclones are sitting at 1-3 in Big 12 play, and return Saturday to Hilton Coliseum to face No. 21 Texas.

An up-hill battle arrives

T.J. Otzelberger isn’t naive to the challenge ahead for the Cyclones.

The Big 12 features five schools (including the Cyclones) in the Associated Press top-25, and Iowa State still has more to come on the docket.

Staring at a 1-3 league record is less than ideal, but not a total surprise for Otzelberger and his group given the high-level nature of the league.

“We’re in the best league in the country, it’s physical, every night out’s a war,” Otzelberger said after the loss. “You gotta find a way to come out with a win. It’s tough to come up with them.”

“We’re going to keep building. We’re still young in our program with the group that we’ve had. But we’re not going to get affected by the outcome of the game.”

But the climb from here is no-less daunting. 

Since Iowa State joined the Big 12 Conference in the 1996-97 season, the program has started 1-3 in league play eight times — including this season.

In the seven previous 1-3 starts, Iowa State ended up finishing in 9th place or worse in the Big 12 six times. Only in the 2015-16 season did the Cyclones finish in the top five in the Big 12 after a 1-3 start in conference play.

Gabe Kalscheur, who found his three-point shot for the first time in a while Tuesday, admitted the Cyclones let one slip away from them Tuesday night.

And going forward, it’s up to the Cyclones to bounce back and get back on track.

“This one, we should have had. We know that. We gotta bounce back,” Kalscheur said.

Tyrese Hunter rises to the challenge

After setting a career-high with 20 points in a loss to Oklahoma on Jan. 8, Tyrese Hunter walked into Allen Fieldhouse for the first time on Tuesday.

And he handled his own.

Hunter scored 12 points, shooting 5-11 from the field, to go along with his five steals.

The freshman guard from Racine, Wisc., scored the fifth-most points by an Iowa State freshman at Allen Fieldhouse since the 2009-10 season.

Kalscheur was the recipient of a few of Hunter’s five assists on the night. He believes the freshman guard is only improving for this program and knows development on nights like Tuesday will only benefit him going forward.

“I’m here to help him through games like this that are big-time, in the spotlight and he does a great job,” Kalscheur said of Hunter.

Nail-biting final two possessions

Izaiah Brockington nailed a mid-range jumper with 16 seconds left, giving the Cyclones a 61-60 lead.

But Kansas guard Dajuan Harris shifted his way into the paint and put up a contested lay-up with under 10 seconds left, and it fell through.

Kansas led 62-61 after that.

The Cyclones moved up the floor with pace, with Hunter dishing the ball to Kalscheur who was wide-open in front of the Iowa State bench for a chance to win the game. But the shot missed and went out of bounds as the clock hit zeroes.

And the rest is history.

“Got a wide-open shot, I thought it felt good. Just missed it,” Kalscheur said postgame.

Otzelberger said the Cyclones got exactly what they wanted at the end of the game: moving in transition and finding a hot shooter with a great look. All that was missing was the end-result. But there was no thought of calling timeout in that moment. Iowa State wanted to move the ball quickly and get a shot up.

“The last play, Hunter, we didn’t want to call a timeout we wanted to get it up the floor quick,” Otzelberger said. “Kalscheur has an open look, he already made four threes, so wide-open look in that situation is hard to get a better situation than that.”