No. 24 Iowa State aims to end recent long-range shooting struggles Saturday at No. 19 TCU

Jan 16, 2024; Provo, Utah, USA; Iowa State Cyclones forward Milan Momcilovic (22) shoots the ball against Brigham Young Cougars guard Richie Saunders (15) during the second half at Marriott Center. Mandatory Credit: Rob Gray-USA TODAY Sports

 AMES — The subject turned to shooting and Iowa State freshman Milan Momcilovic is an established expert on the subject.

 So diagnosing what precisely is causing the Cyclones’ 3-point shooting woes early in Big 12 play didn’t prove to be difficult — and he started with a self-critique.

 “I feel like I’m getting pretty good looks and I’m just missing right now,” said Momcilovic, who hopes to help ISU (13-4, 2-2 Big 12) snap out of its long-range shooting funk at 1 p.m. Saturday against TCU (13-4, 2-2) in Fort Worth, Texas. “I think it’s just adjusting to Big 12 play right now, but I think I’ll be fine moving forward.”

 Call it a blip. An aberration, maybe. But don’t call the Cyclones’ current 21.7 percent mark from beyond the arc a trend — not until there’s a larger sample size than four games to scrutinize, at least.

 “Throughout the season we’ve gotten a lot of things at the rim, a lot of post-ups, a lot of attacks, pick and rolls, so I feel like we haven’t really had to use the 3-point shot as much,” said Momcilovic, who leads ISU’s starters in 3-point accuracy at 39.5 percent. “But now since it’s Big 12 (play) and everyone’s athletic and (there are) shot blockers at the rim, we’re gonna need to use that 3-point shot as an advantage. A weapon.”

 So far, it’s been a liability.

 Momcilovic’s 3-point percentage has dipped to 26.1 against Big 12 competition, but that’s quite a bit better than most of his teammates who fire up long-range shots with any regularity. Starting guard Keshon Gilbert is 0-for-8 from beyond the arc in conference play. Backup guard Curts Jones is 2-for-9 and leading scorer Tamin Lipsey’s hit just 2 of his 11 3-point tries since league games began. And Lipsey — the only player in the country to average as many as 14.5 points, 5.6 assists, 5.5 rebounds and 3.4 steals in over 25 years — might not play against the Horned Frogs because of a sprained shoulder. 

 “I think everybody kind of moves one place forward in terms of opportunity (if Lipsey can’t play),” said Otzelberger, whose team owns a 3-game win streak against TCU. “So guys like Curt Jones and (Jackson) Paveletzke, and Demarion (Watson) have more opportunities with those guard minutes than maybe they might get on a normal night.”

 There’s no such thing as “normal” in the Big 12, however — particularly on the road, where teams are a combined 8-20. The Cyclones are one of six Big 12 teams to be winless on the road and that’s a situation that must change if they hope to contend for a top-tier finish in the league standings.

 “The physical play every single night is impactful,” Otzelberger said of a 14-team conference that currently features eight teams in the Associated Press top 25. “So what happens is I feel like defensively (at home) you’re able to impose your will more and that pushes other teams’ offense out and makes the degree of difficulty a lot of times with the shots harder. I think what you see is teams on the road oftentimes take more mid-range shots because they’re not able to get all the way to the rim, or shots are being taken away at the 3-point line. I think you’re seeing that across the board, that the home teams certainly have that advantage and that confidence with their fan base and the crowd behind them.”

 One thing Momcilovic doesn’t lack is confidence, even with his recent shooting struggles away from home.

 “Nothing really changes,” he said. “Even though there (are) a lot of fans rooting against you, just do what we do every day.”