Jan 14, 2023; Austin, Texas, USA; Texas Longhorns guard Tyrese Hunter (4) dribbles during the first half in a 72-70 win against the Texas Tech Red Raiders at Moody Center. Mandatory Credit: Dustin Safranek-USA TODAY Sports
Location: Hilton Coliseum
Time: 7 p.m.
KenPom Prediction: 68-66, Iowa State
1 – Handling emotion
We all know about the outside storylines of this basketball game. We all know the Hilton Coliseum crowd will be juiced up. We all know there are players on the Iowa State side who will be extra juiced up, too, even if they’re not going to say that publicly.
The key with all of that will be Iowa State being able to come out of the gates with a strong start and preventing all the other stuff from getting in the way of executing the game plan.
This team is at its best when it is able to use its physicality and defensive prowess to punch teams in the mouth before the first media break. While they were able to take a quick 5-0 lead against Kansas on Saturday, it was the Jayhawks who set the tone of the game early.
Make sure everyone in the building knows who the aggressors are on this night.
“I feel like we were a little on our heels at times in that game (on Saturday),” Iowa State freshman point guard Tamin Lipsey said. “I think we fought really well. It was a hard-fought game. We were right there close to winning it. That’s a hard place to win in. Obviously, we wanted to get the win. We’re not happy with the loss. We’re going to move onto this next game.”
Texas is going to try and play faster than it did last year, and that means it will be imperative for Iowa State to set the pace of the game by running good offense at a solid pace, looking for the best available shot and being able to stack stops on the defensive end.
The Longhorns are a very talented team in addition to the point guard who will draw the majority of the attention on Tuesday. Iowa State is going to have to come out and play good ball for 40 minutes.
Use that juiced-up crowd to your advantage by getting off a good start early and not allowing Texas any opportunity to seed doubt in the minds of the Hilton Coliseum faithful.
“Obviously, they’re really talented at a lot of positions,” Iowa State senior guard Caleb Grill said. “I think when they get out and go and play their style, they’re really good. We’ve just got to do a good job of slowing them down and making it longer possessions just kind of how we’ve played all year. If we play our game, I think we can have a lot of success with that. If we let them play their style, it’s not going to fit us. One thing we learned from the Kansas game is we’ve got to come out and punch them in the mouth and not let them be comfortable. I didn’t think we did a really good job of that. We let them be comfortable. We’ve got to come out and dictate from the start so we’re not playing from behind like we did in that game.”
2 – The elephant in the room
Now, we all know the motivating factor in this game from a fan perspective.
From a player perspective, Iowa State’s players can’t allow themselves to get wrapped up in beating Tyrese Hunter. I don’t have any concerns about that happening, but it would be easy to let those emotions seep into the game.
The reality is while Hunter is still a very good player, he won’t even be the first player on Iowa State’s scouting report going into this game. The 6-foot sophomore from Racine, Wis. is averaging 9.8 points, 3.4 rebounds and 2.0 assists per game during Big 12 play.
Hunter’s ability to knock down shots from deep has improved this season as he’s connecting on 32 percent of his 3-pointers so far this year, up from 27 percent last year in Ames. He’s also struggled to score from 2-point range in Big 12 play as he’s only 5-of-21 (24 percent) from inside the arc through five games.
“For me, I have gratitude and thankfulness to all the guys that were on our team last year and what they did to help jumpstart our program,” Iowa State head coach T.J. Otzelberger said. “I understand the kind of player and competitor that he is. At the same time, our focus is on moving forward, our team, our group, us getting better every day, us doing what we can to keep climbing.”
Hunter’s usage is down considerably from where it was a year ago and even down from where it was during Texas’ non-conference portion of the schedule. That was likely to be expected when you consider Hunter is playing alongside Marcus Carr, who is one of the most ball-dominant scorers in college basketball and has been for several years.
We can all talk about the outside storylines of this game until we’re blue in the face, but once the game starts, the attention turns towards preventing Carr from heating up, keeping Timmy Allen and Sir’Jabari Rice under wraps and working as a team to beat another really good opponent with talent up and down the roster.
Cyclone Alley’s reaction to Hunter’s return will be a sight to see, though.
“I don’t have any thoughts on how our crowd reacts to any opponent,” Otzelberger said. “It’s nothing I’ve ever factored into coaching strategy. We’re fortunate to have passionate fans who are enthusiastic and love to support the players on our teams. We’re grateful for that. Sounds like it will be a great crowd. We’ll do what we can between the lines and from a coaching standpoint to put our team in the best position to win.”
3 – As Carr goes…
Texas is going to go as far as Carr is able to take them. I don’t say that to mean it will be on the senior former transfer from Minnesota to carry the team, but how well Carr is playing seems to be one of the biggest factors in Texas’ success on a night-to-night basis.
When Marcus Carr is playing well, Texas is as good as anybody in the country. When Marcus Carr isn’t playing well, Texas can probably lose to just about every quality team in the country.
For these reasons, I’d expect to see Gabe Kalscheur draw the early match-up on Carr. No matter how you slice it, this game will be personal for Kalscheur when you remember he and Carr were teammates at Minnesota.
“He’s a dynamic scorer,” Otzelberger said of Carr, who is averaging 16.6 points per game in Big 12 play. “He can score in bunches so always having great awareness to him is going to be important.”
Carr’s talents are amplified by the amount of sheer talent around him. Allen is one of the best all-around isolation players in the country, and that ability has played a significant factor in him averaging 13.6 points against Big 12 teams.
Rice very well might be the Sixth Man of the Year in the league and brings even more proven scoring punch to the table. The New Mexico State transfer has scored in double figures in each of Texas’ last two games and is averaging 12.8 points in conference play.
This team is as talented and as complete from a personnel standpoint as anybody else in the league. When this group comes together, they’re able to play with and beat anybody. They’re able to overcome any deficit as proven by their ability to erase multiple double-digit holes in their two home games last week.
While this game is hotly anticipated and will have Hilton Coliseum packed to the gills, it won’t be a great game because of Hunter’s presence on the other side. It will be a great game because a really good team is hosting another really good team with Big 12 title implications on the line.
Once the ball goes up, nothing that happened before will matter. It will just be two good teams putting it all on the line in the best league in America.
“Not allowing them to get something early,” Otzelberger said. “Not letting them get into the paint. Limiting them to one shot. All those things are going to be important.”