Feb 19, 2022; Ames, Iowa, USA; Oklahoma Sooners forward Ethan Chargois (15) defends Iowa State Cyclones guard Izaiah Brockington (1)] at James H. Hilton Coliseum. The Cyclones win 75 to 54. Mandatory Credit: Reese Strickland-USA TODAY Sports
AMES — Iowa State held a seven-point lead as Tyrese Hunter received a pass at the top of the key from Aljaz Kunc with seven seconds on the shot clock and 5:50 to play on Saturday at Hilton Coliseum.
Hunter twice dribbled through his legs, then crossed over once more to push Oklahoma’s Jacob Groves back onto his heels. The freshman from Wisconsin elevated and fired a 3-pointer over Groves’ out-stretched right arm with two seconds left in the possession.
The shot found nothing but the bottom of the net, extending the Cyclones’ lead, which had ballooned to 17 points earlier in the second half before OU pulled to within as few as five, back to double-digits.
That shot opened the floodgates, sparking a 15-0 Iowa State run that stretched more than three minutes of game-time, and propelled the Cyclones to a 75-54 win over the Sooners.
“That’s a huge shot,” Iowa State head coach T.J. Otzelberger said. “For Tyrese, we want him taking the right shots, and we have confidence in him to do that and knock them down. It’s something we’ve been talking about a lot. That was a big one for us. He’s got a court demeanor and a swagger to him that he’s continuing to grow and lean into. When our guys see him with that level of confidence, they feed off it. Making that shot had a lot to do with it. Great to see him continue to step up.”
This was the kind of knockout run people used to expect at Hilton Coliseum. It was like an avalanche, gradually picking up speed and thrashing everyone who stood in its way under a barrage of shot-making and thunderous noise from the 13,746 fans in attendance.
It was the type of run offensively that defined the electricity of Hoi-ball in Ames but was complemented by the defensive intensity that has become the program’s trademark in year one of T.J. Otzelberger’s tenure.
Oklahoma turned the ball over twice and missed four shots during this stretch as Iowa State countered with points, and the crowd grew louder with each passing possession.
It was precisely the kind of run this team needed to slam the door on the Sooners one week after it allowed a 15-point lead against Kansas State to turn into an overtime loss in this building.
“Very aware,” Otzelberger said when asked about avoiding another second-half meltdown like last week against the Wildcats. “Wanted to make sure that we continue to stay on the next possession. We were very mindful, and we’re going to continue to be very mindful of that. Because when we have our focus on getting that next stop and winning that next possession, we can be really good.”
This team appears to have found itself again just in time for a closing stretch of Big 12 play that can seal the program’s postseason fate.
The Cyclones were the aggressor on Saturday against Oklahoma. They were in attack mode for 40 minutes on both ends of the floor, shooting 67.3 percent from the field as a team while forcing OU into 48.8 percent from the floor and 16 turnovers.
The Sooners never looked comfortable because Iowa State never allowed them to be. Sure, Oklahoma made its runs, Porter Moser is too good of a coach, and his team is too talented not to make a run at some point, but Iowa State would always answer and hold firm until the next OU push.
That is until Hunter’s shot from the top of the key found the bottom of the net, and Hilton Coliseum reminded folks why it was once considered one of the sport’s most impenetrable fortresses.
There is no answer for an avalanche.
“When we string together stops, we’re able to be effective offensively,” Otzelberger said. “Still comes down to the same things: pressure the ball, be the aggressor, be tough with the basketball, take care of it, and we’ll get great shots. We did that today, and everybody stepped up, and we had a great offensive performance from start to finish.”
Izaiah Brockington proved once again why he’s a lock for first-team All-Big 12 when the honors are announced next month. The Philadelphia native poured in 22 points on 10-of-13 from the floor and 2-of-2 from 3-point range.
A few moves in recent Iowa State memory have felt automatic the second you start to see them develop. Georges Niang’s baby-hook in the lane, Monte Morris’ floater and Marial Shayok shooting from literally anywhere on the floor come to mind.
With his sky-high elevation and left-handed release, Brockington’s mid-range jumper is approaching that territory on most nights. There are nights when it doesn’t go in as often, but, damn, it always looks like it is going in even if he’s rising over the top of a contesting defender.
More often than not, it is automatic and stands as the weapon this team can always fall back to when the offense grows stagnant and a big shot is needed.
He connected on two of them as Iowa State’s final run brewed to its peak.
Hunter, the one who started the final run, continued to prove why he’s one of the best young players in the country by scoring 14 points, dishing seven assists and snagging four rebounds.
Yes, he did turn the ball over four times, but he didn’t allow those errors to prevent him from attacking downhill. Stepback 3-pointers at the end of the shot clock are great when they go in, but Tyrese Hunter has to play downhill for this team to reach its maximum potential.
Iowa State got nearly the best imaginable version of their young point guard against Oklahoma — and Hunter continuing this trend makes the Cyclones an exponentially more dangerous team as March draws closer.
“I feel like with his athleticism, he has the ability to put pressure on a lot of bigs down low and just whoever’s defending in the pick and rolls and things like that,” Brockington said of Hunter. “I feel like him getting downhill, and then as he continues to mature being able to play off two feet and kick it out or score it from there is really big. He’s been learning every game and getting better every game.”
Kunc triggered Iowa State’s knockout with his pass to Hunter that set up the first deep make, then punctuated it with an exclamation point by connecting on a 3-pointer with 2:27 left in the game to push the lead to 22 and send the crowd into one last frenzy.
The avalanche had finally rolled to a stop with nothing left in its wake besides destruction. It felt like the days of old while simultaneously oozing the principles of the present.
It had been a very long time since Iowa State fans could celebrate one of those runs inside its cathedral. Fans will remember it as fondly as many of the program’s great runs of the past if it can give this team a push of momentum towards the postseason.
All it takes is a push — or a 3-pointer from the top of the key from a freshman point guard — to get this thing rolling downhill as an unstoppable force.
“It’s a lot of fun to see (shots go in) and then the crowd get into it,” Iowa State guard Gabe Kalscheur said. “It’s electric out there. Really just brought the Hilton Magic back to it.”
In a world where things seem to change constantly, Saturday reminded us there’s one thing that will always run true regardless of who is patrolling the sidelines or running around the court.
Inside Hilton Coliseum, there is no stopping avalanche.