Iowa State Cyclones’ guard Tyrese Hunter (11) lays up the ball around Texas Longhorns’ guard Courtney Ramey (3) during the second half at Hilton Coliseum Saturday, Jan. 15, 2022, in Ames, Iowa.
Saturday’s win over the Texas Longhorns was arguably the most important of the season.
It snapped the Cyclones’ first losing streak and was the type of performance needed coming off a heartbreaking loss to Kansas.
We have seen top-tier defense from this team all season, but this week emerged something that tells me the Cyclones have what it takes to navigate the Big 12, finish in the top half of the league, and be a team that no one wants to play come March.
I said early in this season that Tyrese Hunter reminded me of former Texas Longhorn T.J. Ford. Ironically, Tyrese waited for the Longhorns to come to town to perform his best rendition of the former lottery pick.
To shoot only six shots yet control the flow of the entire game speaks volumes of how much he has grown as a floor general in his short time in Ames.
His final stat line was 13 points, eight assists, three rebounds, and two steals. Make no mistake about it, he was the straw that stirred the Cyclone drink on Saturday.
The Cyclones as a team had their most balanced offensive attack of the year, getting contributions from every player in the rotation.
They turned the ball over only 14 times against one of the best defenses in the country and poured in 79 points despite their leading scorer, Izaiah Brockington, dealing with foul trouble and scoring only eight points.
What allows for this balance is a point guard who knows he can get anywhere on the court he wants and the maturity to use that weapon to make others around him better.
Both Texas and Kansas struggled to turn the Cyclones over last week because neither team had a way to rattle Hunter. His speed and quickness make him dangerous, but the evolution of his decision-making should scare opposing coaches.
Saturday was the standard for this team to replicate moving forward.
The balance displayed on both ends of the floor had the look of a second-weekend tournament team written all over it.
Each player found ways to impact the game on both ends of the floor, something we have not seen for forty minutes this year to date.
TJ couldn’t ask for a better time of year to find another level for this team to go to.
The next challenge is stacking these types of performances together.
Tuesday night in Lubbock will be another tough test, but if Hunter is able to orchestrate the game flow the way he did Saturday, there is no reason to think this team cannot take its smooth jazz on a winter travel tour.