116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
CHICAGO — It’s often referred to rocking chair time.
Sometime — days, months, or years into the future — Iowa State’s patchwork group of well-traveled transfers, holdovers and freshmen will look back on this highly-improbable run to the NCAA tournament’s Sweet 16. But at least until late Friday night against Miami at the United Center, the 11th-seeded Cyclones keep making memories, not savoring them.
“I think we’re just in the moment,” said Minnesota transfer Gabe Kalscheur, who in one season helped ISU go from two wins to 22 triumphs entering the matchup with the 10th-seeded Hurricanes. “Just experiencing what’s going to happen next and focus on what’s next.”
Kalscheur’s staunch on-ball defense and ability to close out on jump shooters has helped the Cyclones (22-12) become one of the most disruptive defensive teams in the country. His offense has come in fits and starts, but has been more consistent in recent weeks as he’s looked to post up guards and score at the rim more frequently.
“I think when I’m being aggressive and letting everything come to me, I think it helps our offense,” said Kalscheur, who matched a season-high with 10 field goals in Sunday’s 54-49 second-round win over Big Ten regular-season champion Wisconsin. “There’s so many weapons on our offense. Our offense really comes from our defense, with how we pressure.”
Those weapons occasionally misfire in unison, but the defensive intensity is constant. Entering Friday’s game, that’s what stood out to Miami’s players.
“We know they’re real scrappy,” said Hurricanes leading scorer Kameron McGusty, who played two seasons at Oklahoma before transferring to Miami. “They’ve got good guards that defend. They’ve got bigs that are not only getting steals, but blocking shots and being disruptive. They’re a real disruptive team. We know we need to take care of the ball.”
No one needed to wait until tip off Friday night to know one element of the game would favor ISU: The crowd.
Thousands of Cyclones fans descended on downtown Chicago to cheer on their team. To revel in the defensive effort. To wince through the occasional empty offensive possession.
ISU entered Friday one win from just the second-ever trip to the Elite Eight — and regardless of what happens against the Hurricanes, that’s something to reflect fondly on down the road. They just hoped it wouldn’t be Saturday morning.
“It’s still kind of unbelievable,” said Penn State transfer and leading scorer Izaiah Brockington. “I feel like when the whole experience is done, we’ll fully grasp just how blessed we were to be in this position. It’s still really unbelievable. We’re just trying to make this run last as long as we can.”