Basketball

STANZ: Everyone has a plan

Iowa State Cyclones’ forward Aljaz Kunc (5) celebrates after winning 51-47 over Texas Tech of an NCAA college basketball game at Hilton Coliseum Wednesday, Jan 6. 2022, in Ames, Iowa.

“Everyone has a plan until they get punched in the mouth.” – Mike Tyson

Iowa State surely had a plan entering Wednesday night’s tilt with No. 25 Texas Tech at Hilton Coliseum.

The Cyclones seemed to be executing that plan well early, building a 19-6 lead before the under-12 timeout of the first half. Then, the Red Raiders landed a punch to the mouth and another and another in one of the most physical basketball games you will ever see.

No drive went unimpeded, no cut went without resistance and every single thing Iowa State tried to do offensively was blown to pieces under the weight of constant physical pressure from a short-handed Texas Tech squad.

The plan was out the window. The chips were on the table.

This game was not going to be won with a barrage of shot-making and offensive firepower. This game would only be won with brute strength and pure, unadulterated guts.

Iowa State displayed plenty of strength and guts in securing a 51-47 win that will surely stand as one of its most impressive wins of the season, regardless of how shorthanded Tech’s squad was with multiple key contributors missing.

There wasn’t one damn thing easy about this basketball game — and the Cyclones didn’t back down from it for a second. Instead, they started landing punches of their own.

It wasn’t pretty. Fights rarely are. The Cyclones will be feeling the bruises and beating they acquired in this game for the next several days, but it won’t make the game’s result any less beautiful.

That’s because a W looks a helluva lot better on the schedule than an L.

“Every game in the Big 12 is gonna be a fight,” said Iowa State forward Aljaz Kunc. “Coming out victorious while playing offense like we did in the second half, it’s definitely a good thing.”

This team has never given us a reason to question is strength or guts. Those things have been put forth in spades game-after-game during this 14-game stretch that ranks among the best starts in program history.

Iowa State was going to be tested in a different way in this game than they have in any other because the program on the other side defines itself on the same exact principles T.J. Otzelberger has preached all along.

Strength, guts and Texas Tech men’s basketball should sit next to each other in the dictionary. They go together like peanut butter and jelly. They’re the pillars former Red Raiders head coach Chris Beard used to turn that program into a powerhouse and NCAA Tournament mainstay.

Mark Adams has been called the architect of that identity and the mastermind behind Tech’s no-middle defense that has taken college basketball hostage.

When you’re preparing to play Texas Tech, you’re not preparing to play basketball. You’re preparing for hell in a cell and that cell won’t be unlocked until the clock hits zeroes.

Iowa State men’s basketball has been broken by those principles before in recent years. The Cyclones lost each of the last two home games against that program by more than 30 points.

They were two of the worst losses in Hilton Coliseum’s 50-year history.

Those programs weren’t on the same plane in anything. Not in shot-making. Not in defending. Sure as hell not in toughness.

That has changed under Otzelberger. Hell in a cell is what you’re walking into the second you step foot on the Hilton Coliseum hardwood, nowadays.

I don’t care who that team has available. You just beat them at their own damn game.

“Nobody on our side is going to be fazed by what the offense is,” Otzelberger said. “We’re here to guard people. We’re here to try to break people’s spirit with our defensive ball pressure, effort, energy, turning them over. When we do a great job of that, we get offense and transition. We’re at our best.”

Iowa State was rarely at its best in this game, because Texas Tech remains really good at doing what it does. The Cyclones just proved to be better at it on this night.

It helps when Iowa State has Izaiah Brockington on its team. His go-ahead stepback 3-pointer through a foul late in the second half was a watershed type of shot.

The Cyclones had joined the officiating crew in losing complete control of the game. Texas Tech had taken its first lead and it felt like the Red Raiders were going to find a way to escape Ames with a marquee victory.

Brockington had no intention of allowing that to happen, though.

If you gave me the choice of any player in college basketball to play one-on-one with my life on the line, I know who I’m choosing. I’m taking the guy who I think would fight tooth and nail for me. I’m choosing the guy who makes winning play after winning play because they’ll do anything it takes to win the basketball game.

I’m taking Izaiah Brockington because that is a guy who will win you basketball games by himself if he has to. We know that to be absolutely true right now.

Because he just freaking did it.

“We just couldn’t find that rhythm in the second half,” Kunc said. “But the shot maker (Brockington), he made the and-one three when it counted the most. We really fought it out.”

I don’t really know how much can be taken away from Iowa State’s performance in this game and applied to a prediction for future results because this game was so unlike every other the Cyclones will play.

Sure, there might be a few nights like this one, but there will not be another game allowed to be this physical.

This win feels important because it gives the team instant momentum after suffering its first loss last Saturday to Baylor. They needed a shot in the arm with four games left in this brutal six-game stretch to open conference play.

A 1-1 record not only looks a lot better than 0-2 to start Big 12 play, but it feels a lot better, too. The guys in that locker room don’t give a damn how the game looked.

They’re too busy preparing for the next one — a date with Oklahoma on Saturday in Norman. They’ll formulate a plan and get ready to execute it as best they can.

Everybody has a plan until they get punched in the mouth, though.

On Wednesday, we found out what Iowa State will do after that opposing punch lands.

They will punch back.

Jared Stansbury

administrator

Jared a native of Clarinda, Iowa, started as the Cyclone Fanatic intern in August 2013, primarily working as a videographer until starting on the women’s basketball beat prior to the 2014-15 season. Upon earning his Bachelor’s degree in Journalism and Mass Communication from Iowa State in May 2016, Jared was hired as the site’s full-time staff writer, taking over as the primary day-to-day reporter on football and men’s basketball. He was elevated to the position of managing editor in January 2020. He is a regular contributor on 1460 KXNO in Des Moines and makes regular guest appearances on radio stations across the Midwest. Jared resides in Ankeny with his four-year-old puggle, Lolo.

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