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AMES — Ever since T.J. Otzelberger took over as head men’s basketball coach at Iowa State, the Cyclones have lived with an unapologetic identity of intangible points of emphasis: effort, toughness, energy, and fight.
On Saturday against the TCU Horned Frogs (13-3, 3-2 Big 12), those traits were missing from the Cyclones — dropping them to 2-5 in the Big 12 after their 59-44 loss.
“That’s not an acceptable effort, not at any point in time based on the way we work in our program,” Otzelberger said postgame.
No. 15 Iowa State (14-5, 2-5 Big 12) scored just 44 points in the loss, the least amount of points scored by the Cyclones in the history of Hilton Coliseum.
Izaiah Brockington scored 12 of Iowa State’s 23 first-half points along with five rebounds. He was the leading — and only consistent — option for the rest of the afternoon. Brockington finished with 19 points, shooting 8-of-14 from the field.
The rest of the Cyclones went a combined 9-for-41 from the field, including 3-for-26 from 3-point range.
“I don’t think they were doing anything defensively. It’s basketball. You’re going to miss shots from now and then,” Tre Jackson said. “Three for 26 (from 3), but we’ll be alright next time.”
When it’s going that badly on offense overall, Brockington said a bigger and bigger hole begins to form. The Cyclones were holding the shovel on Saturday and couldn’t stop digging deeper.
And yet, despite the offensive issues, Iowa State cut it to 36-33 with 13:38 left to play.
And then TCU went on a quick 6-0 run and cruised to victory from there.
It was at that point, down only three, Brockington felt Iowa State had its best chance to take control.
But poor execution prevented that from happening.
“That was probably our best chance,” Brockington said. “But, I mean, we can’t dig ourselves a hole like that in the first place. In this league, it’s going to be really hard to dig yourself out of something like that.”
But struggling to score isn’t new for Iowa State. So what made Saturday’s defeat so different?
Effort and being the team that dictates were two ingredients missing from the Cyclones, according to Otzelberger. It’s one thing to shoot 31 percent for a game. It’s one thing to go 3-for-26 from 3.
It’s another to let it seep into your actions and attitude.
“The disappointing part is that our guys reacted to that and it took away from our defensive energy,” Otzelberger said. “I felt like our court demeanor and body language and ability to dictate wasn’t at the level that we’ve come to play at day-in and day-out.”
Saturday was the sixth game of the season that the Cyclones have shot sub-30 percent from 3 in, and there have been plenty of games of Brockington carrying the load. But Iowa State didn’t do what it wanted and it kept piling up.
Otzelberger has preached being the aggressor at everything, wanting to dictate how offense is scored. There wasn’t much of that Saturday, with Iowa State scoring 10 points off TCU turnovers.
The 15-point loss showed Otzelberger signs for the first time that his group had let their offense dictate their defensive effort. And Otzelberger said postgame there’s no other option but to forget Saturday and move on.
“When you sign up to play for the Iowa State Cyclones in the Big 12 Conference, that’s really not an option,” Otzelberger said of letting the mental aspect of the game get to you.