Kunc’s 5 triples lift ISU past Grambling

A number of fans at Hilton Coliseum on Sunday watched an Iowa State basketball team beat an opponent by 20 points for the first time since February of 2020.

But on multiple occasions during the 82-47 win, it was Aljaz Kunc’s world, and there was nothing Grambling State could do about it.

“We challenged our guys to play a game for 40 minutes with the habits that we build every day,” Iowa State coach T.J. Otzelberger said. “We were able to do that even with some guys in foul trouble that usually play a different number of minutes.”

The Slovenia native and Washington State transfer made Hilton Coliseum his home on Sunday, winning over the cardinal-and-gold crowd with five 3-pointers and no misses from the field.

He’s the seventh player in Iowa State history to hit at least five long balls without missing. It helped him finish the night with 21 points.

“What I like about our group is that you’ve seen guys step up,” Otzelberger said. “We have a lot of guys that bring something to the table. Our bench outscored our starters tonight.”

Caleb Grill went home with 10 points on a pair of 3’s. Tre Jackson hit four long ones, too.

As a team, the Cyclones were 13-25 (52%) – all but two of those 3-pointers came from the bench.

Kunc was a big part of the night and the group, though. Iowa State’s bench tallied 50 points while the starters had 32. At one moment, he scored 13-straight points in the game, without either the opponent or any other Cyclone scoring.

That helped Iowa State get out to a 25-15 lead after it had trailed early on.

Unlike the first three games of the season, the Cyclones didn’t let it go.

“I like how today we kept our focus for 40 minutes,” Kunc said. “Our problem over the first three games was that we would go up and get the advantage and then kind of relax. I feel like today we stepped on their neck.”

Tristan Enaruna contributed with 15 points on the night, including a few big dunks. George Conditt finished with 10 rebounds, but seven of them came on the offensive side of the ball.

The Cyclones put together a 40-minute game on Sunday, and that’s what Otzelberger wanted to see.

“It’s good that we go to New York 4-0,” Kunc said. “We’re undefeated. That’s good for sure. It’s all about what we do in practice. If we translate what we practice to the game, then we play good.”

The win helps Iowa State streak to a 4-0 start to the season, its first since 2016-17, and allows them to go into the next pair of games with as much confidence as a coach could ask for, right now.

Up next, the Cyclones head to Brooklyn to participate in the NIT Season Tip-Off – a two-day multi-team event where they will face Xavier on Wednesday and then either No. 10 Memphis or Virginia Tech on Friday.

Wednesday’s matchup is scheduled to begin at 6:00 p.m. CT on ESPNU.