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AMES — It’s no secret where Iowa State men’s basketball was coming into Saturday’s tilt against the No. 21 Texas Longhorns.
The Cyclones returned home to Hilton Coliseum staring at a 1-3 start in Big 12 play with no easy stretch in sight. Their backs were against the wall. It was time to fold or rise.
Iowa State chose the latter.
The No. 15 Cyclones defeated the Longhorns, 79-70, on Saturday, using their bread-and-butter formula of turning stingy defense into easy offense. The Longhorns struggled all afternoon, but the biggest obstacle came from Iowa State’s overwhelming pressure on defense.
“We knew we had to come out and punch them in the face first and that’s what we did and we continued to do that throughout the game,” Gabe Kalscheur said.
Kalscheur did most of his punching from the 3-point line Saturday, with the senior transfer from Minnesota knocking down 6 of his 12 3-point attempts. He finished with a team-high 22 points along with two steals.
Ever since T.J. Otzelberger took the reins of the Cyclone program, he’s been about one thing: creating defensive pressure — and lots of it.
Saturday was another example of that philosophy paying off. Texas had no answers and became uncharacteristically sloppy, leaving Chris Beard, the Longhorns’ head coach, frustrated with what he saw at Hilton on Saturday.
“Turnovers was a big, big problem for us in both halves,” Beard said.
Texas had more turnovers (13) than made baskets (11) in the first half, playing right into the hands of Iowa State. Texas came in ranked No. 26 nationally at 10.7 turnovers per game. But Iowa State ranked top-15 in turnovers forced coming in at 17.8 a game. Something had to give.
The Longhorns had 20 giveaways Saturday.
“It was frustrating watching our turnovers basically become their offense,” Beard said. “It’s the story of the game.”
For Otzelberger and his group, Saturday wasn’t a surprise to them. This is who they are when they’re at their best: turning teams over, moving in transition, giving intensity seemingly every defensive series.
However, the Cyclones came in one for their last four and failed to maintain stretches of dominance to pull out a victory. Saturday’s win showed Otzelberger a lot about his group and how they respond to clear and present adversity.
“Let’s just call it how it is, we were 1-3 today and our guys had their backs against the wall in terms of ‘we needed a win.’ And couldn’t be more proud of our group,” Otzelberger said.
Iowa State freshman point guard Tyrese Hunter put in another solid performance in league play with 13 points and a career-high eight assists. As for the amount of turnovers Iowa State forced, Hunter said that’s what playing basketball under Otzelberger is all about.
“That’s just us,” Hunter said. “That’s something we come out and do everyday.”
The Cyclones scored 23 points off Texas’ mistakes, the most the Cyclones have had against a Big 12 opponent since January 2020. Five Longhorns finished with at least two turnovers.
The defensive pressure started with Kalscheur and his teammates hearing from their head coach heading into Saturday about the options they had on the table. And thus, the Cyclones did what they wanted and came out victorious.
“That’s what fuels our whole game,” Kalscheur said. “We knew this is one that we needed.”