By Anthony Hanson
AMES – Iowa State men’s basketball found its groove Sunday night to the tune of a 35- point win over Grambling State.
Sunday’s contest was easily the biggest point margin of the T.J. Otzelberger era and the biggest Iowa State non-conference win in over two years. Iowa State shot 52 percent from three-point range in the dominating win.
The Cyclones will head into the NIT Season Tip-Off tournament with a boost of momentum and a perfect 4-0 record.
“We needed to play a game for 40 minutes with the habits that we build every day,” head coach T.J. Otzelberger said.
Iowa State came out of the locker room firing on all cylinders offensively. Iowa State had 49 points at the end of the first half off 51.4 percent shooting. The Cyclones led by 24 going into the break.
Iowa State was able to sustain and build on the early lead on Sunday night, dominating the Tigers from start to finish.
“We kept our focus for 40 minutes,” Aljaz Kunc said. “I fell that was the problem with the first three games, we would go up, then relax. Today, we stepped on their neck.”
Aljaz Kunc, the transfer from Washington State, was the major offensive threat for Iowa State. Kunc would score a career-high 21 points with a perfect shooting clip. At 6 foot 8, Kunc stretched the floor for Iowa State as he sunk five three-point field goals. Kunc finished the game a perfect 5-5 from three and 7-7 from the field.
Kunc averaged 6.3 points per game in his junior season with Washington State in about 20 minutes per outing. Kunc utilized the transfer portal to get a change of scenery for his senior season. His career-high before Sunday’s contest was 15 points, a mark Kunc matched in the first half against the Tigers.
Playing the stretch-four position for Iowa State, Kunc’s long frame and sweet shooting stroke provided the Cyclones rebounding, defense and an offensive weapon. Kunc adds depth to an already light frontcourt that has faced foul trouble issues so far this season. George Conditt sat long stretches in each half after picking up his third foul in the first and his fourth foul early in the second. In limited minutes, Conditt was able to grab 10 rebounds.
More important than the impressive three-point shooting, according to Otzelberger, was passing to set up shooters.
“It’s great to see our guys play for each other,” Otzelberger said.
Iowa State assisted 21 of its 29 field goals. Freshmen point guard Tyrese Hunter had a game-high six assists on top of his 12 points. Tre Jackson shared the love as well with his five assists.
Iowa State outrebounded Grambling 46 to 22. Iowa State crashed the boards to grab 17 offensive rebounds score 20 second-chance points.
Tristan Enaruna shot 70 percent from the field and battled in the paint to grab nine rebounds. With Conditt in foul trouble, Enaruna played a season-high 24 minutes.
“I feel we got a chance to get a greater feel for each other in a game,” Enaruna said.
Iowa State now travels to New York to participate in the NIT Season Tip-Off
tournament. Undefeated teams will face-off as Iowa State will play Xavier Wednesday at 6 p.m.
“Wednesday we have a new game,” Kunc said. “If we do what we’re supposed to do, I think we’re going to have a nice trip.”