Jan 20, 2024; Manhattan, Kansas, USA; Kansas State Wildcats forward Taj Manning (15) and guard Cam Carter (5) block out Oklahoma State Cowboys guard Connor Dow (13) during the second half at Bramlage Coliseum. Mandatory Credit: Scott Sewell-USA TODAY Sports
No. 23 Iowa State (14-4, 3-2) returns to Hilton Coliseum on Wednesday night to take on Kansas State (14-4, 4-1) at 8 p.m. on ESPN2.
The Cyclones stole a 73-72 win at TCU on Saturday without starting point guard Tamin Lipsey due to a shoulder injury.
About the Wildcats
Coming off an Elite 8 appearance in his first season as head coach of the Kansas State program, Jerome Tang has his team right back atop of the Big 12 standings in year two.
The Wildcats currently sit tied atop of the Big 12 standings with the likes of Texas Tech at 4-1. Even though Kansas State stands at 4-1 in league play, the Wildcats have played one of the easier strength of schedule’s out of all the Big 12 teams. They have beaten UCF, West Virginia, Oklahoma State, and Baylor and their only loss came to the hands of Texas Tech.
Tang has created a three-headed monster in the backcourt, beginning with returning starter Cam Carter. The 6-foot-3 junior is averaging a career-high 16.6 points, 4.8 rebounds, and 3.1 assists per game. He is only shooting 31.3 percent from three but has proven to be a reliable option in the past. On Carter’s last trip to Ames, he tallied 15 points on a perfect 5-5 shooting from the floor.
Creighton transfer Arthur Kaluma and North Texas transfer Tylor Perry join Carter in the headlining backcourt.
Kaluma, who stands at 6-foot-7, was one of the Big East conference’s best players last season. At 15.2 points and a team-high 7.9 rebounds per game, Kaluma can rebound at the guard position extremely well and score against smaller guards.
The former Conference USA Player of the Year in Perry was one of the most sought-after transfers in the transfer portal market. His ability to score the basketball from anywhere on the court at any time made him so heavily coveted this offseason.
Perry averages 14.9 points, 3.1 rebounds, and 5.2 assists per game for the Wildcats. Limiting Perry and Kaluma is a major priority for the Cyclones on the defensive end of the floor.
The force in the paint for Kansas State comes from returning starter David N’Guessan. The 6-foot-9 senior is averaging 7.5 points and 7.9 rebounds per game. His presence in the paint will challenge Iowa State’s forwards.
How the Cyclones escaped Fort Worth with a win
In perhaps one of the best wins in the T.J. Otzelberger era at Iowa State came as a road win at No. 19 TCU without all Big 12-point guard Tamin Lipsey running the show.
In his first start as a Cyclone, Curtis Jones was terrific, filling in for the injured Lipsey as the backup point guard. The Buffalo transfer seemed to be everywhere on the defensive end, collecting seven steals and tying him with Fred Hoiberg and Justice Thigpen for the most in a single game. Jones wasn’t just a terrific defender on Saturday, he produced on the offense as well and posted his first double-digit scoring number in conference play.
With Lipsey out, Iowa State needed someone to pick up his production. Keshon Gilbert did exactly that. The UNLV transfer played perhaps one of his best games in a Cyclone uniform. He scored a team-high 20 points and hit crucial shots down the stretch for the Cyclones.
Iowa State had several contributions from their bench, including 5-star McDonald’s All-American Omaha Biliew. He played his first major minutes in Big 12 play and scored four points in only six minutes. But more importantly, he looked like he belonged on the court with some of the Big 12’s best players. If Iowa State can get five to eight minutes a night consistently from Biliew, it will go a long way with his development and help the Cyclones on the defensive end.
Sophomore forward Demarion Watson has seen an uptick in minutes ever since league play started. He played a career-high 25 minutes and had a game-saving block on a three-point attempt with 50 seconds remaining. The most impressive thing about Watson is his athletic ability. Like Hason Ward, Watson can jump with almost anyone on the court. His 6-foot-7 frame allows for him to rebound with some of the conference’s best forwards. He collected four offensive rebounds that led to kick out threes for Iowa State.
Big week at Hilton Coliseum
Sold-out crowds await the Wildcats (Wednesday) and Jayhawks (Saturday) this week.
With fans battling the snowy weather for the games against Houston and Oklahoma State two weeks ago, Cyclones fans will be in full force this week with two rivals coming to town, especially with students back on campus.
If Iowa State can go 2-0 this week, a Big 12 regular season title isn’t out of the question.