116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
AMES — Gabe Kalscheur’s done it six times. Caleb Grill and Jaren Holmes? They’ve done it four times apiece. Throw in Osun Osunniyi and that makes four different Iowa State players who’ve led the team in scoring multiple times — and that wide-ranging offensive output helps explain how the 12th-ranked Cyclones have become more dangerous on both ends of the floor.
“I think it’s balance,” said ISU head coach T.J. Otzelberger, whose team faces Oklahoma State at 1 p.m. Saturday in Stillwater, Okla (ESPN+). It’s guys like Tamin (Lipsey) and Jaren getting to the basket. Guys like Osun and Rob (Jones) and even TK (Tre King) being able to catch the ball in the paint and scoring at the rim, or shooting at that high post area. … It’s not one person to take away. It’s not one dynamic to take away.”
Diversity has been the key to unlock relative success on the offensive end for the Cyclones (14-3, 4-1 Big 12), who were ranked 171st in adjusted offensive efficiency by KenPom last season and now sit at 74th nationally in that important metric.
So while defense will continue to serve as ISU’s foundation, the offense is becoming a strength as well and that trend must persist against the Cowboys (10-8, 2-4) on Saturday.
Oklahoma State is ranked eighth nationally by KenPom in adjusted defensive efficiency — just two spots behind the Cyclones — and sits third nationally in blocked shot percentage.
“I think the key for us is just doing what we’ve been doing,” said King, an Eastern Kentucky transfer who’s averaging 5.3 points off the bench since he became eligible shortly before conference play began. “Making simple plays. Playing inside and out. Getting touches in the paint and then spreading the ball to the next open man.”
Maintaining strong movement, both on and off the ball, will be critical against the Cowboys, who are likely to get a boost from the return of 7-foot-1 Moussa Cisse. He sat out two weeks because of an injury before playing 2 minutes Wednesday in a 72-56 win over Oklahoma. Cisse’s averaging 7.5 points, 9.3 rebounds and 2.5 blocks per game so he’s a persistent problem in the paint when healthy.
“I know everybody talks about his rim protection, but across the board, they do a really good job of rotating and contesting at the rim, as well,” Otzelberger said. “So from an analytics standpoint, because of their length, they guard the 3 well and because of their rotations they protect the rim well.”
ISU’s potential answer to the Cowboys’ defensive proficiency hinges on that balance Otzelberger highlighted. The Cyclones are solid from every spot on the floor and move the basketball with purpose and at a high rate. That creates open looks and for the most part, ISU’s making more of those shots than it did last season. Hence the better offense — even without a consistently prolific scorer like Izaiah Brockington to rely upon.
“We’re lucky our guys trust each other,” Otzelberger said. “They want to make the right play. They’re willing to make the right play. They’re willing to cut hard, or screen; do things that involve sacrificing or making the play that leads to the play.”