With four minutes remaining in Sunday’s game at Hilton Coliseum, Milwaukee appeared to have Iowa State on the ropes during its 11-0 run to close its deficit to 11 points.
It didn’t matter to Iowa State, though. In large part due to the five turnovers the team forced before Milwaukee scored, finishing with 27 forced giveaways on the night, the Cyclones rolled 68-53.
“I loved the energy we started the game with there,” coach T.J. Otzelberger said. “Our defensive intent – our guys were terrific. (We) can certainly set the tone that way. We had a great start and that’s something that we talk about in the locker room and something we need to continue to do.”
It was a big part of the victory, which improved the team’s non-conference record in the regular season to 16-0 under Otzelberger.
The start, combined with the game that saw Iowa State take a 22-point lead on multiple occasions, gave the coach less worry about the pseudo-run Milwaukee was on.
“There’s a part of it that – our guys are tired,” Otzelberger said as he shrugged. “We practice hard and they probably need a break, so we need to be more mentally tough, to be focused in (that) moment and not let that team come back.”
Aside from the 11-0 run, the defense was as good as any fan could hope, finishing a third-straight game with 19 turnovers or more.
On top of it, the Cyclones cleaned up on the boards collecting 17 offensive rebounds out of 38 on the night.
“Rob gave us tremendous energy when he came in,” Otzelberger said. “When you’re not shooting the ball well, you’ve got to do a great job taking care of the ball, pressuring the ball & turning your opponent over, and then doing a great job on the glass. For the most part, we were pretty good in those areas.”
Jaren Holmes led the team with 19 points on the night, adding five assists and three boards as well.
Gabe Kalscheur played just four minutes in the game, exiting early in the first quarter after suffering a minor injury in practice on Saturday.
The injury doesn’t appear to be something overly serious.
“(Kalscheur) got hit in the hip (Saturday) at practice,” Otzelberger said. “So, he has a bruise that, when he got out there today, wasn’t moving great. I give him a lot of credit for giving it a go, because I know he’s in a lot of pain, but he gave it a go. He couldn’t get any push laterally, so we’ll give him a rest and hopefully he’ll be better soon.”
Iowa State will now depart from Ames this week to travel to Portland to play in the Phil Knight Invitational.
The Cyclones will face off with Villanova, North Carolina, Michigan State and/or other top programs from around the country.
“For our group, this is a great challenge and a great opportunity to go out and play a program like Villanova,” Otzelberger said. “We’ve got a lot of respect for their program and how they do things. We’re going to do everything we can to be at our best and that starts with our preparation leading in to the opportunity we have Thursday.”
Iowa State faces Villanova in the first round of the 8-team bracket on Thanksgiving at 2:30 p.m. CT (ESPN2).
“We’ve got a lot of confidence in our guys – that’s why we like to get these opportunities to go play a program like Villanova,” Otzelberger said. “We’ll see where it goes from there.”