Nov 23, 2023; Kissimmee, Florida, USA; Iowa State Cyclones guard Tamin Lipsey (3) drives to the hoop past Virginia Commonwealth Rams guard Jason Nelson (1) in the first half during the ESPN Events Invitational at State Farm Field House. Mandatory Credit: Nathan Ray Seebeck-USA TODAY Sports
In Iowa State’s first true test of the season, the Cyclones showed shades of an anemic shooting percentage that resembled its season-ending loss to Pittsburgh in the NCAA Tournament last season.
Thanks to a pair of determined scorers, however, T.J. Otzelberger’s team improved to 5-0 with a 68-64 win over VCU at the ESPN Events Invitational.
“It certainly wasn’t pretty,” Otzelberger said on the Varsity Network postgame show. “I thought our guys were doing a good job getting the attempts they wanted in the paint. They disrupted us early, and we just kind of calmed down and slowed down in the second half – that was great.”
Iowa State started the game shooting just 3-25 from the field, and at one point went 11 minutes and 10 seconds without a made field goal.
VCU eventually earned got out to a 15-point lead, but sophomore point guard Tamin Lipsey helped trim the team’s deficit with a pair of three’s in the final seconds of the half.
“Those were big momentum shots for us,” Otzelberger said. “We needed them going into half time to build a little confidence. Then he came right out of the locker room and led us as well, so important and really just proud of Tamin.”
Lipsey finished the game with a career high 22 points, adding seven rebounds, four assists and three steals.
The Ames native got things started in the second half as well, connecting on two of the team’s first three makes of the period.
It started the first portion of the climb that Iowa State ventured on in the second half.
“We got in the locker room and we decided that we weren’t playing like what we were supposed to be playing like,” center Robert Jones said. “We weren’t playing our game of basketball – we were letting them out-physical us, and that’s just not who we’re going to be this year.”
“That was the whole halftime speech – ‘we’re going to be more physical, we’re going to get to the places where we need to get to, they can’t handle us, and we just had to come out there (and do it),” Jones, finished 6-7 from the field and added five rebounds, said.
The Cyclones trimmed the VCU lead to two, but the Rams stayed aggressive, and held a 10-point lead with 6:02 remaining.
In the final minutes, Keshon Gilbert found a momentum-shifting and-1, scoring seven points in the final six minutes.
Gilbert was strategic in getting to the free throw line throughout the game, finishing with a 12-15 mark. The rest of the team combined to shoot 6-15 at the charity stripe. His 22-point, 10-rebound double-double was a staple in this one as well.
“(Lipsey and Gilbert) both did a great job,” Otzelberger said. “(VCU’s) a team with tremendous length. You’ve got to bring shot blockers and length from everywhere. They just did an amazing job finishing plays.”
The Cyclones will face the winner of Boise State (2-1) and Virginia Tech (3-1) in the second round of the tournament on Black Friday at 4:30 p.m. CT. For more information on the pair of teams, visit Scouting the ESPN Events Invitational, by Jackson Pence.