By Anthony Hanson, KURE 88.5 Sports Reporter
AMES—Punch and counterpunch.
Former Cyclone Tyrese Hunter landed the first blow. Hunter scored six of the first eight points for his team, and the No. 7 ranked Texas Longhorns led by 11 in the first half.
But then, Caleb Grill and Gabe Kalscheur made back-to-back three-pointers. The Cyclones made a response, and by the end of the first half, the score had evened.
In a battle of Big 12 heavyweights on Tuesday night at Hilton Coliseum, No. 12 Iowa State and No. 7 Texas traded baskets until the Cyclones created separation in an emotional game with conference positioning and egos on the line.
“In the first 10 minutes, they were the aggressor,” Iowa State head coach T.J. Otzelberger said postgame. “That last 30 minutes is the club that we are and who we need to be for 40 minutes.”
In front of a sold-out crowd, Iowa State kept composure. In a physical battle, with 49 fouls called, Iowa State played more together as a unit, Otzelberger said. The team stayed connected while the visiting Longhorns were rattled by the hostile crowd. Iowa State forced 12 turnovers while Hunter made his return to Hilton Coliseum.
Hunter, who was the former Big 12 Newcomer of the Year for Iowa State, scored all ten of his points in the first half.
Toughness –but more notably togetherness—led Iowa State to its fifth victory in the Big 12 conference. Iowa State is 5-1 in conference play and tied with Kansas for the top spot on the conference standings.
“In 20 years of doing this, this is probably the most connected group I’ve been around,” Otzelberger said.
Iowa State finished ahead 78-67, with four Cyclones reaching double figures. Senior transfer Jaren Holmes led all scorers with 21 points while orchestrating the Cyclone offense.
“We knew they were going to come out with a punch,” Holmes said postgame. “You knew it was going to be a war. But you got to be able to take some of those punches and stay in the fight.”
Holmes reached 20 points for the third time this season. The senior from Romulus, Mich., moved his average to 12.8 points per game.
Iowa State’s Gabe Kalscheur recorded another double-figure scoring night. He finished with 16 points while connecting on three three-point field goals. Kalscheur displayed his defensive prowess against another top scorer in the Big 12 conference.
Texas guard Marcus Carr finished with 11 points, lower than the senior’s 17.5 points per game entering the matchup.
Iowa State center Osun Osunniyi cemented his presence in the paint for Iowa State with his 11 points and game-high seven rebounds. The senior from St. Bonaventure scored seven of his 11 points in the first eight minutes of the second half, including a three-point play with 16:17 to go in the game.
For Otzelberger, Osunniyi added firepower for the Cyclones in the spirited battle.
“He’s a weapon,” Otzelberger said. “He gave us a spark there. He did some really good things for us on both sides of the ball.”
Iowa State’s Caleb Grill provided a spark from the perimeter with his three three-point field goals. Grill finished with 17 while being perfect from the free throw line.
Grill has connected more than three times from beyond the arc in four of Iowa State’s six Big 12 conference games.