Jan 16, 2024; Provo, Utah, USA; Iowa State Cyclones guard Tamin Lipsey (3) and Brigham Young Cougars guard Dallin Hall (30) tie up a ball during the second half at Marriott Center. Mandatory Credit: Rob Gray-USA TODAY Sports
AMES — Iowa State not only survived, but thrived in its first game without standout point guard Tamin Lipsey.
But can the No. 23 Cyclones do that again if the Ames native must also sit out Wednesday’s 8 p.m. home game against Kansas State (ESPN2) because of a sprained shoulder?
Who knows? But ISU (14-4, 3-2 Big 12) proved in Saturday’s 73-72 win at then-No. 19 TCU that it can succeed if Lipsey’s brief absence morphs into a slightly extended one.
“If anything was shown on Saturday, it’s the depth and the character (of) the other guys,” said Cyclone head coach T.J. Otzelberger, whose team seeks to beat the Wildcats (14-4, 4-1) for the second straight time at Hilton Coliseum. “So we’ve gotta do what’s best for him, regardless of what’s coming at us, but right now all of our focus is on the opportunity we have tomorrow night.”
ISU will enjoy a prime chance to climb the conference standings whether Lipsey plays or not. The Cyclones are currently locked into a four-way tie for fourth place in the Big 12. Kansas State — which is 5-0 in overtime games this season — is tied for first with Texas Tech. The Wildcats lost three starters from last season’s Elite Eight team and turned to seasoned transfers such as Tylor Perry (North Texas) and Arthur Kaluma (Creighton) to help fill those vacancies.
“The guys they brought in have come from winning programs,” Otzelberger said. “The guys they brought in have a history of being successful and I think as a coach, when you see guys that have won and done things well at previous stops, it gives you confidence they can continue to do it at your place, and that’s certainly been the case for their program.”
If Lipsey’s able to return, the Cyclones’ hopes for a 2-0 homestand this week against the Wildcats on Wednesday and No. 7 Kansas (16-3, 4-2) on Saturday spike upward. ISU forced its most turnovers against a Big 12 foe (27) in the victory over the Horned Frogs last weekend and leads the nation in defensive turnover percentage (26.7) according to KenPom.
“We’re a team that thrives on being disruptive and being physical on the defensive end and a lot of times, we feel like our defense creates our offense,” said senior forward Tre King, who grabbed five rebounds and stripped away three steals in the TCU win. “Offense in general is a very up-and-down thing. There are nights when you shoot the ball great and there are times you don’t shoot as great, so that’s one thing that we’ve always decided is we’re gonna be a team that always plays hard and plays well on the defensive end and tries to turn you over.”
Senior guard Curtis Jones, a transfer from Buffalo, saw his minutes rise in Lipsey’s absence and totaled seven steals against TCU — one shy of the single-game program record set by Lipsey earlier this season.
“I think it was his best game as a Cyclone,” Otzelberger said. “Just seeing all of his game on display, which I was proud of him for that.”
Lipsey’s abilities have been on full display since he slid into a starting role as a freshman last season. The 6-1 sophomore leads ISU in scoring (14.5 points per game), assists (5.6) and steals (3.4).
“He’s an elite competitor and I don’t want him out there feeling like he can’t be at his best,” Otzelberger said. “He deserves the right to feel at his best to be out there, so if he is, he’ll go, and if he’s not, then we’ll continue to evaluate as we move forward.”