Iowa State’s Robert Jones reacts after drawing a foul during a basketball game at Hilton Coliseum on Thursday, Dec. 7, 2023, in Ames.
© Lily Smith/The Register / USA TODAY NETWORK
AMES — Keshon Gilbert tried to find the words to describe several of his mammoth moments during Thursday’s Cy-Hawk game against Iowa, but couldn’t.
The first-year Iowa State guard’s mind whirred with happy thoughts after his career-high-tying 25 point-effort fueled his team’s most lopsided win over the Hawkeyes in series history — a 90-65 rout that played out before a sold-out and amped-up Hilton Coliseum crowd.
But forming a narrative to explain his ebullient emotional state? That eluded him.
“I’ve never been a part of a crowd like that,” said Gilbert, who scored 11 consecutive points during one stirring second-half stretch. “I can’t really explain how I felt. It was just a good feeling for me.”
Enough said. Gilbert and his ISU teammates let their dominant play do most of the talking.
The Cyclones (7-2) led all but 35 seconds against the Hawkeyes (5-4) and forced 19 turnovers — the most by Iowa in a game this season. ISU forwards Robert Jones and Tre King combined to go 14 of 17 from the field while teaming up for 35 points, and the senior duo helped the Cyclones’ craft a robust 46-to-18 advantage in points in the paint.
“It started right from the jump,” said Hawkeye head coach Fran McCaffrey, whose team trounced ISU, 75-56, last season in Iowa City. “They went inside and they had a couple of and ones early. We kind of fell in love with the 3-ball at that point because we got a little bit behind. We have to do a better job collectively to limit that kind of discrepancy.”
Iowa found few answers on either end of the floor Thursday as the Cyclones led by as many as 32 points. ISU point guard Tamin Lipsey — who notched his first career triple-double last Friday at DePaul — totaled 11 points, a team-best seven rebounds and matched Gilbert with a game-high six assists. The Cyclones shot 53.3 percent from the field while limiting the Hawkeyes to 38.6 percent shooting. They also outscored Iowa 23-9 in points off of turnovers while recording their first win this season against a KenPom-rated top-40 team.
“There (are) always going to be things from our end that we feel like we can keep improving on, but if you look at the full 40 minutes — the focus, the effort, the intent, the execution of the game plan — our guys did the job and they stayed locked in,” Cyclone head coach T.J. Otzelberger said.
The Cy-Hawk series is currently locked into blowout mode, as either ISU or Iowa has won by double-digits in seven of the past eight meetings. The Cyclones have emerged victorious in Iowa City once since 2014 and the Hawkeyes have done the same in Ames one time doing the same span. So home court matters deeply in this rivalry in which neither team has won more than three consecutive games since Iowa triumphed in five straight meetings from 1978-83.
“Ain’t no words to describe,” King said of the loud Hilton crowd. “It’s the stuff you dream of as a kid and being a kid who’s not from here, I’ve seen how Hilton’s gotten over the years, and to be a part of that — and be a part of a rivalry win is indescribable.”
At least King found the words for a while. Gilbert eventually did, too, but the 6-10 Jones summed up the night from ISU’s perspective the best.
“It’s delightful,” said the senior who was one of the first players to transfer into the Cyclones’ program after Otzelberger took it over in 2021. “It doesn’t get better than beating your rival to end your career.”
No it doesn’t. Just ask Gilbert, who Otzelberger recruited to UNLV before taking the ISU job. He giggled as Jones spoke.
“He said, ‘Delightful,’” Gilbert joked.
Jones kept smiling.
“Having the crowd respond like that is magical,” he said. “As you guys know.”