AMES – Iowa State cruised to a victory Wednesday night but didn’t satisfy head coach T.J. Otzelberger’s defensive standards.
“We didn’t show up the way we would like tonight,” head coach T.J. Otzelberger said.
“The standard we have defensively is at a much higher level.”
Iowa State defeated Arkansas Pine Bluff 83-64 after allowing 42 points in the second half.
No. 19 Iowa State came in as a 27.5-point favorite after its impressive performance at the NIT Season Tip-Off tournament in Brooklyn, N.Y. The Cyclones knocked off two top-25 teams in the Big Apple and were looking to improve on their unblemished record against another SWAC opponent.
From Iowa State’s roller coaster night on defense to a great performance from George Conditt, here are the takeaways from Wednesday night’s contest.
A roller coaster on D
Iowa State hounded the passing lanes while scoring 20 points off 19 turnovers. Arkansas-Pine Bluff was held to only 30 percent shooting in the first half.
The Cyclones showed glimpses of the stifling defense that propelled the team into the AP Top 25 for the first time since Feb. 2019.
However, after the first half, the tides turned for the Golden Lions. Arkansas-Pine Bluff shot 48 percent from the field in the second frame.
“At times, we were too complacent,” Otzelberger said. “We need to be a more stubborn, tough team every single possession and not play the scoreboard.”
Tyrese Hunter was tasked with picking up the Golden Lions’ top scorer Shawn Williams. Williams, the primary ball-handler for Arkansas-Pine Bluff, is a dynamic scorer from the outside who averages 15.4 points per game on great shooting splits.
The freshman Hunter stayed in Williams’ grill but let him connect four times from the outside. Williams averages 13 field goal attempts a night; he was able to score 21 on only eight shots Wednesday evening. Williams found 15 of his 21-points in the second half.
Tre Jackson had 3 steals in 25 minutes off the bench. Several times the backup point guard’s activity awarded him run-out layups. Iowa State guards have lived in the passing lanes so far in the early season and Jackson was no exception against the Golden Lions.
“I thought he [Jackson] was a bright spot for us,” Otzelberger said. “He read some plays and did a good job guarding the ball, getting into the basketball, and speeding them up.”
Jackson, a junior, was still disappointed in the defensive consistency.
“We have a standard we have to uphold each day,” Tre Jackson said. “That’s the reason we’re upset right now, the standards and those habits that we build every day.”
On the offensive end
Iowa State showed signs of a holiday hangover in the early going against Arkansas-Pine Bluff.
After all, the Cyclones played three games in five days in the previous week and traveled across the country to win dogfights against Xavier and Memphis. Iowa State trailed Arkansas-Pine Bluff 9-7 at the under 12-minute media timeout.
Iowa State proceeded to pick off the pace going forward, finishing the game with 83 points on 44.8 percent shooting.
Izaiah Brockington was the leading scorer of the game with 23-points on a 50 percent shooting clip.
“I feel like I get some easy ones,” Brockington said about his nice offensive night.
“My teammates do a really good job of finding me on cuts.”
Yet again, Iowa State’s opponent was creative on the defensive side of the ball. Arkansas-Pine Bluff mixed schemes against the Cyclones and their freshman point guard Tyrese Hunter. The Golden Lions showed a matchup zone while sometimes extending into a half-court trap.
Brockington continually slashed through the zone and picked up valuable buckets.
The Iowa State backcourt is quickly becoming accustomed to facing a variety of defenses. Multiple teams have thrown different looks at Iowa State to slow down its backcourt. Iowa State is showing it can adjust on the fly and score against a variety of looks.
George in the middle
Iowa State forward George Conditt picked up a new season high scoring total in Wednesday night’s contest. The junior eclipsed his former high of 10 early in the second half. Conditt, who played in all six games, averages only 4.7 points per game.
So far, Conditt’s value to Iowa State has not shown up in the stat sheet. Conditt sets hard screens, rotates on defense, and has been a jolt of energy for the Iowa State in its early-season run.
Going forward, however, the Cyclones will need Conditt to be more than a “glue guy.” As the schedule ramps up for Iowa State, the 6-foot 10 big man will need to step into a bigger offensive role. Scoring from the inside will prove to be imperative in the ultra-competitive Big 12. In conference play, defenses will likely key on the stellar guard play Iowa State has seen from Gabe Kalscheur, Izaiah Brockington, and others. Conditt will need to take advantage of open opportunities inside.
Wednesday night Conditt showed a glimpse of an offensive spark with his 11 points including a monster dunk early in the first half. Continuing a trend of increased offensive production will be a major help for Iowa State.
While coach Otzelberger was unpleased by the 19-point victory, the Cyclones have a lot to be happy about as they head into another key stretch. Iowa State will see Creighton on the road on Dec. 4 and return to Hilton Coliseum on Dec. 9 to play the Iowa Hawkeyes.
They will enter these matchups a perfect 7-0.