Cyclones use boards, ball pressure to streak past St. John’s in 71-60 win

Iowa State coach T.J. Otzelberger said that his team needed to improve its rebounding after suffering its first loss of the season to a now No. 8 ranked UConn squad.

The Cyclones had given up 21 offensive rebounds and lost the battle 48-19 in the Portland finale. A week later, St. John’s – a top 40 rebounding team on KenPom – visited Hilton Coliseum.

Otzelberger’s team responded by owning the glass on its way to a 71-60 win on Sunday in Ames.

“I felt like we did a tremendous job,” Otzelberger said of his team’s play on the glass. “That was at the top of everything that we did in this game. Before we controlled the tempo, we had to control the glass. No second chance points. No easy putbacks. Our guys answered that call for 40 minutes.”

The No. 23 Cyclones led the rebounding battle throughout the game, deadlocked the totals with their opponents and rode a 22-5 run to start the contest.

That’s an effort that came against a team ranked 23rd in offensive rebound percentage. For reference, Iowa State ranked 277th defensively in the same stat coming into the game.

“We knew that they were aggressive on the glass,” Otzelberger said. “It’s their size, their athleticism, and the speed (they play with). They get you spread out, so it (creates) tougher rebounding situations.”

That effort started with the familiar names that have developed into leaders on this squad.

Jaz Kunc took home eight rebounds and added 12 points to go with it. Caleb Grill finished with 10 boards on the day, scoring eight points and collecting five steals to lead the team.

When asked to step up before the season, the pair didn’t hesitate. It showed on Sunday.

“I mean, Caleb Grill has 10 rebounds – that’s huge,” Otzelberger said. “And it seemed like he was all over the glass. There was probably a few more that he was close to having. Then, Kunc has eight rebounds. There’s such a thing as our big’s need to rebound, but (with) how our rebounding plan sets up, those guys need to block out and our guards need to come down and get those rebounds.”

Meanwhile, the offensive rebounding was no one-man effort.

Of the nine players who set foot on the court during the game, seven of them recorded an offensive board.

St. John’s ranked 49th in opponent offensive rebound percentage coming into the game. It was nothing short of an impressive effort.

Now, the question turns into how important it was for Iowa State to see a performance like that from itself, going into a rivalry game in Iowa City on Thursday.

“When you play a game like this, you make sure to get guys rest and make sure they’re eating right,” Otzelberger said. “As you get back to the practice court, it’s just a continued reconnection to the habits we have every day. It’s the ball pressure. It’s the rebounding. It’s commanding the game. Those are the three areas we’re going to talk bout all year. Today, we did all three well.”

“I’m confident, moving forward, that if we can keep doing those three things, well – then outcomes will come our way,” Otzelberger said.