Williams: ISU wins a close one, that’s refreshing

It’s amazing the difference that five minutes in a basketball game can make. Had Iowa State lost to Houston on Sunday afternoon, the world of Cyclone basketball would be in shambles.

But Iowa State won a close game, in double-overtime, against a talented team that had already knocked off a quality Big 12 opponent earlier this year.

What’s the big storyline coming out of this game? To me, it is pretty simple. Iowa State found a way to win a close game. Period. That hasn’t happened a lot lately in case you’ve forgotten.

Iowa State trailed Houston for the majority of the contest and frankly, things looked awful for the Cyclones, the closer that thing got to the end of regulation. But again, the Cyclones found a way to win.

It wasn’t a beautiful victory at all. But the win showed progress Fanatics.

Hamilton & Staiger were key

Lucca Staiger and Justin Hamilton have been punching bags for a lot of Fanatics over the past couple of weeks. The pair stepped up for their team against Houston in a huge way.

Hamilton went 3-of-3 from the field to score eight points and rip down nine rebounds. Staiger led the Cyclones in scoring with 18 points, while recording six rebounds of his own.

While he isn’t nearly as flashy as LaRon Dendy, Justin Hamilton brings a sense of consistency to this basketball team when he is on the floor. He’ll rarely score more than 10 points but he never kills the team either. He’s a body, plain and simple. Referring to Hamilton as an anchor seems appropriate. He’s always there. I like keeping him in the starting five to be honest with you. There’s something about Dendy and Scott Christopherson coming off of the bench together that I like.

Back to Staiger for a minute…want to read a crazy stat? Staiger has attempted 41 field goals so far this season. Of those attempts, 39 of them have been from 3-point range. Crazy.

Gilstrap is scrappy He certainly isn’t smooth, but Marquis Gilstrap is probably the gutsiest player on Iowa State’s roster right now. The Houston game was an odd one for Gilstrap. He was assigned the chore of defending one of the nation’s top scorers, Aubrey Coleman, for the majority of the afternoon. That alone got Gilstrap all out of his element early in the game, playing much farther away from the basket than he is used to. In fact, Gilstrap, Iowa State’s leading rebounder at 8.6 a game, only had one board at the half.

But Gilstrap proved to be huge for Iowa State in the second overtime, scoring eight of Iowa State’s 13 points and totaling 17 in the game. He looked like a different player.

Gilstrap also suffered from some leg cramps late in the competition that ultimately left him limping around Hilton and giving fans another reason to be nervous. Gilsrap assured the media that he was fine after the game.

Gilstrap has now scored in double figures in 12 of 13 games for Iowa State and from what I hear; the best is yet to come from this raw talent who keeps getting better.

Rebounding is a giant concern There’s no way to spin it. Iowa State needs to rebound the basketball better. This has been the case for weeks and nothing changed on Sunday. Houston grabbed 49 boards compared to Iowa State’s 45 in the Cyclone victory.

Here’s what Greg McDermott had to say about this issue after the game.

“We can’t spend anymore time on rebounding than we are in practice. It continues to be a problem. I understand. They went small. Marquis Gilstrap, who is our best rebounder, is guarding the guy with the ball who is shooting fade-aways. It is difficult for him to be a part of the rebounding picuture when that is happening. So now you have Craig Brackins and three guards back there trying to rebound. We have to do a better job. Diante has to rebound it better. Lucca has to rebound it better. Scott, right on down the line. We are going to play against teams who are going to rebound from every position, not just the couple positions. We have to be better fundamentally. I thought that Craig flipped a switch in the second half and went out and got some rebounds that he wasn’t going to get in the first half. That was obviously huge for us as well.”

I really feel like Houston’s out of nowhere game plan messed with Iowa State in more ways than one. The first, is what McDermott talked about in that quote above. The guys were all out of sorts, especially in the first half.

Second, that game was frustrating to watch from the stands. Houston bled the clock down for the majority of the game, limiting possessions for Iowa State. Fans grew impatient. I can’t imagine what it would be like to play against a game plan like that, especially when you like to run.

I do credit Houston’s coaching staff though. They made it very difficult on an Iowa State team that prepared for a sprint all week long.

Other notes – Diante Garrett recorded six assists to his one turnover, while scoring 11 points including a couple of clutch field goals to keep the Clones alive. Garrett also snagged three steals in the game.

– Craig Brackins picked up his 22nd career double-double. Brackins and Gilstrap combined for seven blocks in the win.

Bring on Duke Up next is the game we have all been waiting for. Iowa State will head to Chicago on Wednesday night to take on the seventh-ranked Duke Blue Devils. Iowa State enters the game on a four game winning streak with some confidence that they can now win the close one. Duke is 11-1 and playing some great basketball of their own. Expect the Blue Devils to move up in the rankings when new ones come out on Monday afternoon.


Cyclone Fanatic