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Aljaz Kunc powers Iowa State to men’s basketball win
Cyclone forward is trying to be more aggressive
AMES — Aljaz Kunc sat upright and gazed into the lens of the courtside camera.
“And one,” Iowa State’s talented forward said emphatically.
Kunc drilled the subsequent free throw to complete that gritty 3-point play late in the first half Sunday against North Carolina A&T and the Cyclones cruised to an 80-43 victory before 12,731 fans at Hilton Coliseum.
“(I’m) just kind of trying to be more aggressive,” said Kunc, who led ISU (2-0) with 17 points and 10 rebounds. “Hunting more shots, really.”
Kunc proved to be extremely efficient, as well, notching a double-double while sinking six of his nine field goal attempts and all three of his free throws. The 6-foot-8, 215-pound senior also pulled down five of the Cyclones’ 17 offensive rebounds and dished out a team-best four assists.
“Jaz is a terrific player,” said ISU Coach T.J. Otzelberger said. “At times I feel like with him he doesn’t realize how good he is — and he can continue to be more aggressive. What I’ve found is when you have that type of effort that he’s had on the glass, that the rhythm of the game offensively comes to you, and he certainly was in rhythm today, so we’ll continue to challenge him that way.
“He can really impact our offense. He’s a skilled player. He can move the basketball. He can score around the goal, in the mid-range and from 3, so I’m going to continue to push him to develop to be the best player he can be.”
Otzelberger’s adopted the same approach for graduate transfer forward Osun Osunniyi, who scored 16 points and sank his first 3-pointer as a Cyclone — and just the second of his career.
“He’s certainly a gifted scorer, but yet I’d say that even in these first couple of games he can play a lot better than what he’s done,” said Otzelberger, whose team limited the Aggies (1-2) to 25.6 shooting. “He’s got great touch. Obviously he stepped out and knocked down that 3. I think some folks were a little bit surprised, but we’ve seen him do that, so we’re going to continue to challenge him.”
Osunniyi had only attempted three 3-pointers in four seasons at St. Bonaventure, but is now 1-for-1 from long range with ISU.
“Coach has been telling me to just be confident shooting it every single day and working at it, so it felt good to see it go in,” Osunniyi said. “Just gotta stay humble and keep working at it.”
So far, so good, a smiling Kunc said of Osunniyi’s newfound ability to swish long-range jumpers.
“One hundred percent on the year,” said.