STANZ: Red flags appear as Iowa State surrenders 23-point lead in Lubbock

Jan 30, 2023; Lubbock, Texas, USA; Iowa State Cyclones guard Tamin Lipsey (3) gets tangled up with Texas Tech Red Raiders guard Lamar Washington (1) in the second half at United Supermarkets Arena. Mandatory Credit: Michael C. Johnson-USA TODAY Sports

Iowa State asserted its dominance over Texas Tech for nearly 28 minutes on Monday night in Lubbock.

The Cyclones had built a 23-point lead over the Red Raiders when Caleb Grill canned his seventh 3-pointer of the night with 12:38 left in the second half.

Iowa State had owned Texas Tech in nearly every area to this point. They had shot the ball better. They had taken better care of the ball. They had done a better job of sharing the ball. They had been better and more cohesive defensively.

Then, it all unraveled.

The Cyclones turned the ball over four times over the next four minutes. All four turnovers led to Texas Tech points. Iowa State was called for six fouls during that stretch, including the red-hot Grill picking up his fourth of the night.

Texas Tech had unleashed a 15-3 run by the time the under-eight media timeout hit. They’d cut Iowa State’s lead to 11 points as the Cyclones struggled against Texas Tech’s pressure, and the Red Raiders started getting to the rim at will resulting in the fouls stacking up.

Slowly, over the final seven minutes of regulation, Iowa State’s lead evaporated. It was reduced to nothing when De’Vion Harmon knocked down a free throw with 21 seconds left to knot the score at 71.

The Cyclones did enough to build a three-point lead midway through the overtime period, but the damage had already been done and the momentum had fully swung.

Iowa State had three final attempts to tie the score with less than 19 seconds left in the extra period, but all three shots misfired, and Texas Tech walked away with an 80-77 win, its first Big 12 victory of the season.

There is a lot to unpack from this game. Iowa State played some of its best basketball of the season for nearly 30 minutes before its epic collapse at the hands of a desperate team.

The final 10 minutes of this game really came down to that element of desperation.

Mark Adam’s team was clearly desperate to erase their Big 12 goose egg. They flipped a switch around that 10 minute mark, especially on the defensive end where their ramped up ball-pressure forced some of Iowa State’s best ball-handlers into dumb mistakes in crucial moments.

Tamin Lipsey had been his usual steady self throughout the first 28 minutes of the game, tallying eight points, five rebounds, three assists, two steals and zero turnovers as Iowa State’s lead ballooned.

The final 1`2 minutes were unquestionably some of Lipsey’s worst of the season. He turned the ball over twice as Texas Tech was starting to mount its comeback, and turned it over two more times by the time the game ended.

These next few weeks will be important ones for Iowa State as opponents continue to adjust the scouting report on this team.

We are likely to see more and more teams start sagging Lipsey’s defender toward the middle of the paint every time he has the basketball, daring the 20 percent 3-point shooter to fire one up from deep. They’ll couple that with intense pressure off the ball to take away any potential outlets Lipsey might find.

The only true way to combat this is for Lipsey to develop a jumpshot he’s confident enough in to take (and preferably make) a few jumpers a game just to keep teams honest. Shoot, even a one-step-in mid-range shot would be acceptable at this point if it will keep teams from turning the on-ball defender into an extra helper.

Lipsey is so good at finishing around the rim and is such a dynamic playmaker for his teammates that he does not need to turn into Steph Curry. He just needs to be competent enough to at least give teams the illusion that he could be a weapon from 3-point range.

Realistically, that is not going to happen at the rate necessary for it to make a significant impact on how teams defend Lipsey this season. The book, as they say, is out.

The bright side remains Lipsey is in his first season of wearing an Iowa State uniform. There aren’t many freshmen who avoid hitting any sort of wall once opponents have been able to dissect their games inside and out.

The fact teams have started guarding Lipsey this way is an acknowledgement of how good he is at doing all of the other things he does for this Iowa State team.

The ability to learn, grow and adjust is what separates the good from the great in this sense. Every player is good when nobody knows what they’re going to do, but the great ones are able to adjust and grow their games once teams do know what they’re going to do.

We all saw first-hand that Lipsey still has that special something in him when he drew a charge and raced back in transition after an Iowa State turnover to secure a steal off a back-tap in the closing minutes of regulation.

Despite going through one of his worst stretches of the season, Lipsey was still doing every little thing he could to win his team the game. Things like this are why I’m not worried about Lipsey right now.

It’s time for him to learn and adjust in order to take the next step in his development.

Lipsey’s struggles underscored another thing we can expect to see more frequently in the coming weeks, and that’s this team’s inability to handle full court pressure.

Missouri used it with great success to beat Iowa State on Saturday. Texas Tech used it to force 13 turnovers in the second half, and turned those turnovers into 19 crucial points that sprung the comeback.

Lipsey, Gabe Kalscheur and Jaren Holmes each turned the ball over four times in this game. Many of them were off of poor errant passes or were loose mistakes when handling the ball.

Texas Tech playing like a desperate team with extreme urgency rattled this Iowa State team down the stretch. The fullcourt pressure was one of the driving forces behind that.

The Cyclones play with three and four guards on the court at the same time way too often for them to be this poor at breaking pressure, and that has been the case nearly the entire season. It has caught up to them in a big way in these last two games.

Only looking at points, you’d probably think this was the kind of night you’ve come to expect from Kalscheur in Big 12 play, but he did his damage in a much different way on Monday. The senior finished with 19 points and seven rebounds, but was 0-of-6 from 3-point range and 8-of-13 from inside the arc.

Kalscheur did a nice job of attacking closeouts and getting downhill to the rim early in the game, but Tech did a nice job forcing him into difficult contested jumpers during the most crucial stretches.

Kalscheur, a 72 percent free throw shooter, will surely be kicking himself for going only 3-of-7 from the free throw line, too, including knocking down just one of three when he went to the line with just more than a minute left in overtime when making all three would have given the Cyclones a two-point lead.

Perhaps no area best reflects the change of intensity from one half to the next than the rebounding. Iowa State dominated the glass in the first half, 20-13, and corralled seven offensive rebounds that turned into eight points.

Texas Tech flipped the script after halftime, securing eight offensive rebounds of their own and converting for 12 points.

Iowa State did not have an offensive rebound in the second half.

The only real positive to takeaway from this game came from Grill, who finished with 24 points on 8-of-12 from 3-point range after missing Saturday’s game in Columbia with a lingering back injury.

Nobody will benefit more from the upcoming four-day stretch without a game than Grill. He proved he’s healthy enough to be effective on Monday, but he still did not look like himself, especially on the defensive end.

The optimist in me likes to think this four-day stretch is coming at a good time for the Cyclones as a whole. There is nothing to be done now about what happened in Lubbock. The only option is to turn the page and get back to work over the next several days to keep improving.

That improvement process could receive a significant boost if senior forward Aljaz Kunc, who has missed the last month with an injury to his non-shooting hand, returns to action this week as the Cyclones prepare for Kansas on Saturday.

Kunc reportedly went through warm ups for Iowa State on Monday in Lubbock with no intention of playing in the game. That’s a significant positive sign that one of Iowa State’s most consistent players and leaders over the last two seasons is quickly nearing a return to the Cyclone rotation.

Losing to Texas Tech in the fashion they did on Monday was simply inexplicable and inexcusable for a team of Iowa State’s caliber. It was the kind of loss that has the potential to linger and derail a season.

The Cyclones will have four days this week to make sure that does not happen. I’d imagine those will not be a very fun four days in practice for this team after the way they were out-willed and over-powered as Texas Tech willed its way to victory.

Iowa State got beat by a desperate team on Monday.

Don’t be surprised if you see a desperate team square-off with Kansas on Saturday at Hilton Coliseum.

Jared Stansbury


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.