STANZ: Toughness on display again in Iowa State’s road win over Oklahoma

Iowa State Cyclones guard Tamin Lipsey (3) runs into Oklahoma Sooners forward Tanner Groves (35) after missing a shot in the first second during a college basketball game between the Oklahoma Sooners (OU) and the Iowa State Cyclones at Lloyd Noble Center in Norman, Okla., Wednesday, Jan. 3, 2023.

Iowa State men’s basketball proved something on Wednesday.

We all knew this year’s Cyclones were tough. They had already proved that in multiple wins over top 25 teams and gutsy performances at neutral sites.

They hadn’t won on the road, though.

They missed their first chance at that when they left Iowa City with a 75-56 loss to the rival Hawkeyes.

They came out of the gates on the road at Oklahoma on Wednesday like a team deadset on not missing their second opportunity. They looked like a team that was also prepared to blow that opportunity by surrendering a 20-point first-half lead and allowing the Sooners to retake the lead.

Somehow, through pure grit and toughness, they ground it out, securing a 63-60 win to move to 2-0 in Big 12 play for the first time since 2018-19.

The Cyclones scored 13 of the game’s first 16 points and raced out to a 22-5 lead before the under-12 media break. They were playing some of their best ball of the season, fueled by seven early points from Osun Osunniyi, including his third 3-pointer of the year.

Caleb Grill carried the momentum from his lights-out performance against Baylor by knocking down three 3-pointers in the game’s first nine minutes.

His third shot from deep gave Iowa State a 25-7 lead with 11:37 left in the first half.

The Cyclones didn’t score again for more than nine minutes.

Oklahoma guard Bijan Cortes helped to engineer a 20-0 run by the Sooners that ran 9:18 off the clock. Cortes’ second 3-pointer during the stretch was enough to tie the game with 5:08 left in the first half.

Oklahoma’s Jalen Hill knocked down a jumper to give the Sooners a lead two minutes later.

Iowa State turned the ball over six times during OU’s run while going 0-of-6 from the field. The Cyclones’ electric start on the road had been erased.

T.J. Otzelberger‘s group did just enough to scratch its way to a 29-29 tie at the halftime break.

There are a lot of college basketball teams that would have a hard time bouncing back from allowing that 20-0 run on the road after getting off to such a hot start.

Iowa State had been the clear aggressor to open the game. That had clearly flipped in the half’s final 12 minutes.

It was one boxer knocking the other down in the first round. The other came back to get him in the second. There’s still a lot of fight left though.

And this was like a heavyweight bout. I don’t know if it was the heavyweight championship of the world, but it was a heavyweight bout.

Iowa State quickly retook the lead on the second half’s first possession a fantastic designed lob to Osunniyi, who slammed it home on his way to finishing the game with 12 points on 4-of-6 shooting, eight rebounds and two blocks.

It was perhaps the St. Bonaventure transfer center’s best game in an Iowa State uniform as he dominated his match-up against Oklahoma’s Tanner Groves early and was impactful on both ends throughout.

The two teams traded buckets and defensive stops quite literally throughout the remainder of the game. Iowa State’s largest lead was five on multiple occasions in the 20 minutes.

There was Gabe Kalscheur‘s first 3-pointer of the night followed a steal by Grill and a Jaren Holmes layup to put Iowa State up 41-36.

Oklahoma came back to tie the game again at 45-45 on a 3-pointer by CJ Noland with 9:16 left.

A Kalscheur layup promptly put the Cyclones back ahead just 25 seconds later.

The lead grew back to five after Grill was fouled shooting a 3-pointer and connected on all three foul shots to make it 50-45 with 8:03 left. Grill connected on all five of his free throws on the night to go along with his 5-of-9 shooting from deep for a game-high 20 points.

In the team’s two Big 12 games, Grill is averaging 19 points and is 10-of-18 from deep for a 55.6 percent clip. His offensive rating is one of the 10 best in the Big 12 in conference games only, which is a fancy way of telling you Grill is playing the best basketball of his career to this point by a significant margin.

Oklahoma tied the game once more when Milos Uzan’s layup off a Kalscheur turnover knotted the score at 56-56 with 1:03 left on the clock, setting the stage for an action packed final minute of regulation.

Tamin Lipsey found his way to the rim for a layup to bring his output to nine points, four rebounds, four assists, three turnovers, two steals and a 4-of-7 mark from the field. He grabbed a pair of grown man offensive rebounds by going down amongst the trees to create another Iowa State possession and once went diving head first into the Cyclone bench in pursuit of a loose ball.

Cortes got to the bucket on the other end to even it at 58-58 less than 10 seconds later then Grill connected on his final 3-pointer of the night to make it 61-58 with 30 seconds left.

Iowa State never gave up the lead again, but the final seconds did not come without dramatics.

With the Cyclones leading 61-60 and eight seconds on the clock, Iowa State was trying to inbound from the baseline after a bucket by Oklahoma’s Jalen Hill.

As Lipsey tried to get open to receive the pass, he got tangled up with an Oklahoma defender and fell to the floor, but not before deflecting the ball out of bounds and to the Sooners.

In a moment of let’s call basketball karma, Oklahoma’s insuing inbound pass sailed out of bounds and back to the Cyclones.

In a one-point game with eight seconds on the clock, there were two possessions and two turnovers in a one second span. How do you not love the every second wackiness of college basketball?

Iowa State still had to inbound the ball, though, and this is an area this team is going to need to clean up as this season progresses. They were able to get the ball into Osunniyi, who was promptly fouled and went to the line with five seconds on the clock.

The 89 percent free throw shooter on the year was 1-of-3 on the night to that point.

The senior calmly knocked down both freebies, gave Iowa State a three point lead and secured the program’s first win in Norman since 2019.

This was the kind of game that will live as a deep cut Big 12 classic. Only the diehards and weirdos were really watching, but we’re the ones who embrace this intense brand of college basketball that is dictated by stops and physicality over offensive prowess.

Despite Iowa State shooting just 43.1 percent from the field compared to Oklahoma’s 44.9 percent mark, it was an entertaining game from start to finish. It was an even game on the glass and Oklahoma turned the ball over only two more times than the Cyclones.

Both teams made their free throws, shot efficiently from behind the 3-point line and had to grind their way through some jailhouse style defensive possessions.

This is what you get when you two veteran teams who are well coached together on a Wednesday night in January. Shoot, on any night in the Big 12.

Iowa State proved something on this night in Norman.

They’re going to land their punches, but they’re fully prepared to absorb blows back the other way. They’ll just keep fighting and scrapping until the bell rings.

There are very few knockouts in this league when you’re going into someone else’s house.

This team proved its not afraid of the fight.

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.