By Anthony Hanson
AMES — After Iowa State men’s basketball returned from its late November holiday tournament, it cruised to victory against Arkansas-Pine Bluff.
Head coach TJ Otzelberger, however, was not pleased with the team’s defensive performance. Even in a comfortable win, giving up 42 points in the second half did not meet the standard the first-year head coach is trying to build, he said after the Dec. 1 contest.
The message got through to his team.
Iowa State held the Iowa Hawkeyes to just 53 points on 27 percent shooting Thursday evening in a 20-point Cy-Hawk win.
“We made them uncomfortable,” Izaiah Brockington said.
Iowa State won by a final score of 73-53 and improved its record to 9-0.
Averaging just over 90-points a game, Iowa sported the top-scoring offense in the Big Ten conference heading into the highly anticipated matchup. In its first nine games, the Iowa team played at a fast pace and put up three triple-digit scoring nights. Playing against a defense that gives up 60.1 points per game, something had to give.
“We watched film and we noticed that they never really saw ball pressure like ours. They never really saw intensity like ours,” Brockington said.
“They did a really good job defensively. You know, being up into our space being physical,” Iowa head coach Fran McCaffery said.
Brockington and Iowa State’s defense was able to neutralize Iowa’s Keegan Murray.
The 6-foot-8 Murray grabs 23.9 points and 8 rebounds a game for the Hawkeyes and is the team’s leading scorer. He was held scoreless in the first half and finished the game with nine points. Iowa point guard Joe Toussaint did not score in the game.
Iowa’s Jordan Bohannon was the only Hawkeye to reach double figures. Bohannon scored 17 points in 31 minutes for the Hawkeyes. The Hawkeye’s all-time leader in three-pointers made connected three times from beyond the arc in his sixth game against Iowa State.
Iowa was the bigger team on paper, especially with Iowa State’s George Conditt in foul trouble, but Iowa State was able to win the rebounding margin 50-32.
Iowa State flew around its home court forcing tie-ups and diving for loose balls. Every Cyclone that checked in grabbed a rebound in the 20-point victory.
“It speaks to the competitive spirit of our guys,” Otzelberger said. “It’s not like we got a bunch of 6’10” guys out there.”
Twenty-one of Iowa State rebounds came on the offensive end. The Cyclones scored 19 second-chance points.
On the offensive end, no one made it look easier than Izaiah Brockington. The Penn State transfer scored 29 points while shooting 11 of 14 from the field. Connecting three times from deep, Brockington was the night’s leading scorer.
The slasher consistently found driving lanes to the basket and energized the Hilton Coliseum crowd with multiple dunks.
“It was quite heroic,” Otzelberger said about Brockington. “It’s the byproduct of how he works, his character, his integrity, his toughness as well.”
Freshmen point guard Tyrese Hunter added 11 points while being tasked with breaking Iowa’s three-quarter court pressure. Hunter added six assists to his box score while limiting turnovers to three.
With the win, Otzelberger is now one of two coaches in Iowa State history to start 9-0.
The other? His predecessor Steve Prohm in 2015. The Cyclones led by Georges Niang, Monte Morris and Otzelberger as an assistant lost to Virginia in the Sweet Sixteen that season.
No. 17 Iowa State will return to the court at Hilton Coliseum Sunday at noon against Jackson State.
“It’s pretty special. I love this place. I love being here. And being home with 14,500 to your family members and being on this journey together I don’t know how I could be any luckier,” Otzelberger said.