Feb 8, 2023; Morgantown, West Virginia, USA; West Virginia Mountaineers forward Jimmy Bell Jr. (15) and Iowa State Cyclones guard Gabe Kalscheur (22) dive for a loose ball during the first half at WVU Coliseum. Mandatory Credit: Ben Queen-USA TODAY Sports
Iowa State’s loss to West Virginia in Morgantown on Wednesday came down to one simple fact.
The Cyclones could not consistently guard without fouling for 40 minutes.
Bob Huggins’ Mountaineers made their last field goal of the game with 5:53 left on the clock. They also finished the game on a 6-0 run despite missing each of their last five shots.
A layup by Iowa State’s Jaren Holmes had given Iowa State a 60-57 lead with 9:45 left in the second half. Iowa State freshman point guard Tamin Lipsey picked up his fourth foul 30 seconds later.
Kedrion Johnson knocked down a pair of free throws, cutting Iowa State’s lead to one.
Osun Osunniyi picked up his fourth foul 25 seconds after that.
Erick Stevenson gave West Virginia the lead with two more makes at the charity stripe. The Mountaineers’ leading scorer extended the lead to three less than 30 seconds later after Robert Jones was whistled for a Class A technical foul while setting a screen.
Jones became the first Iowa State player to foul out of the game on an offensive foul with 7:16 left.
Johnson’s 3-pointer a minute and a half later, his third of the night, was the Mountaineers’ final field goal of the game, and gave the home team a six-point lead with less than six minutes to play.
A pair of free throws by Holmes and a fast break layup by Gabe Kalscheur pulled Iowa State back within two points. Lipsey missed on the front end of a one-and-one with 4:36 left and Osunniyi was whistled for his fifth foul on the rebound.
A bucket by Holmes gave Iowa State the lead back with 1:26 left, but it lasted only 19 seconds before Kalscheur was whistled for a foul, sending Iowa transfer guard Joe Toussaint to the free throw line, where he gave West Virginia the lead for good.
Iowa State was whistled for 30 fouls in Morgantown, which is a new program record for a game ending in regulation against a Big 12 opponent. There were 49 total fouls whistled and 55 free throws attempted.
Fifty-five free throws!
There were 37 West Virginia possessions in the second half of the basketball game. Iowa State was whistled for 17 fouls on those possessions.
The Cyclones shot 50 percent from the field in the second half. They also hit three 3-pointers on nine attempts and went 12-of-16 from the free throw line. They turned the ball over only six times, but three of them were the products of being whistled for offensive fouls.
West Virginia went 9-of-25 from the field after halftime. They hit three 3-pointers and knocked down 19-of-23 shots from the free throw line. They turned the ball over only five times and one of those was an offensive foul.
The officiating crew led the way with 31 second half foul calls, including four of the offensive variety.
This was a quality basketball game between two very similar teams. West Virginia has a really good team. They’ll be a tough out for every team in the league the rest of the way and have a very solid shot at getting to seven league wins (and into the NCAA Tournament) with three games still left to play in Morgantown.
It honestly felt like a blessing from heaven when Iowa State was down only six points going into the halftime locker room after trailing by as much as 15 in the first half.
West Virginia had been the aggressors from the opening moments, getting to the free throw line six times in the game’s first 10 minutes. The Cyclones had been able to flip the script back in their favor by closing the half on a 17-8 run.
Lipsey’s played a significant role in keying that run for Iowa State, scoring six-straight Cyclone points after the Mountaineers had built their largest lead of the night.
The freshman point guard showed some newfound confidence in his jump shot while scoring 10 points in the first eight minutes of the second half, including connecting on a pair of mid-range jumpers and one 3-pointer.
Lipsey finished with 16 points on 6-of-8 shooting before fouling out after 25 minutes.
He was joined in double figures by Jaren Holmes, who had a team-high 18 points, and Caleb Grill, who tallied a double-double with 13 points and 10 rebounds as he regains his full form after dealing with a lingering back injury.
There certainly were things Iowa State could have done better in many different areas of this game. It all comes down to the fact they couldn’t consistently guard without fouling, though.
Iowa State was doing enough to be able to win this game as long as they could keep West Virginia’s offensive attack from turning into a never-ending parade to the charity stripe.
They weren’t able to do it, and that isn’t always the fault of the officials.
The Cyclones will need to be able to adjust what they’re doing in order to survive in games like this. I understand the value of being who you are and sticking with your daily habits and all of those things.
BUT, I would hate to see this very good Iowa State men’s basketball team’s season end at the hands of an inability to adjust to the whistle, I say while furiously knocking on wood.
There is a difference, though, between officiating a game to keep it under control and poor or inconsistent officiating. If the calls stay consistent, most knowledgable basketball viewers will live with most things.
Iowa State will do just fine in a game that is officiated consistently.
Wednesday night’s game, where hardly anybody on the court, on the sidelines, in the stands or watching on TV, knew what was or was not a foul. It was organized chaos in the absolute loosest sense of the phrase.
It was organized in the sense that there was an agreed upon location to the play the game, an agreed upon scoring structure, an agreed upon set of rules and an agreed upon group to adjudicate those rules.
It was chaos in basically every other way.