Jan 9, 2024; Lubbock, Texas, USA; Oklahoma State Cowboys guard Javon Small (12) dribbles the ball against Texas Tech Red Raiders guard Pop Isaacs (2) and guard Kerwin Walton (24) in the second half at United Supermarkets Arena. Mandatory Credit: Michael C. Johnson-USA TODAY Sports
Iowa State (12-3) play’s host to the Oklahoma State Cowboys (8-7) Saturday night inside Hilton Coliseum (7:15 p.m.).
The Cyclones are fresh off a thrilling 57-53 win over No. 2 ranked Houston in front of a raucous crowd Tuesday night.
About the Cowboys
Oklahoma State head coach Mike Boynton is known in the Big 12
conference as a defensive minded coach. His teams have given some of the best offensives in the country problems in recent years.
If there is one team that has been the Achilles’ heal for Iowa State head coach T.J. Otzelberger in the Big 12, it has been the Cowboys. In four games against Oklahoma State in the Otzelberger era, the Cyclones are 1-3 with two losses coming in Hilton Coliseum.
Junior guard Javon Small is the do everything guy for the Cowboys. The East Carolina transfer averages 15.3 points, 5.1 rebounds, and 4.5 assists per game. His 15.3 points per game average ranks 10th in conference. Early on in the season, Small poured in 29 points in an overtime loss to Notre Dame. He will be one of the two main points on the defensive end for the Cyclones.
The other key for Iowa State will be focused on senior guard Bryce Thompson. He was the leading scorer for the Cowboys last season (11.3) and has taken a jump forward in his production this season. At 13.1 points per game, Thompson is a threat from anywhere on the court.
In Boynton’s time as the Cowboy’s head coach, he has succeeded by the metrics as a recruiter. His 2023 recruiting class ranked 14th in Division 1 and included three 4-star recruits. His 2023 class is headlined by 6-foot-8 freshman Eric Dailey Jr.
The four-star recruit played on the Men’s U19 National Team with Cyclone forward Omaha Biliew last summer. He is one of the Big 12 conference’s best freshman and brings plenty of size at 6-foot-8 and 230 pounds.
What did we learn in Iowa State’s win over Houston?
It wasn’t a pretty offensive performance, but that’s rare to see for any team against the Cougars. Against KenPom’s No. 1 adjusted defensive and
overall team, the Cyclones raced out to a 14-0 lead by forcing turnovers and
converting open looks.
The Cougars looked shellshocked in the first six minutes of the game, but quickly settled in afterwards, coming all the way back to tie the game.
Down the stretch, it was Cyclone freshman Milan Momcilovic who put the game away for the Cyclones. He tallied 11 points and three rebounds, but he proved against the best defense in the country that he can score the ball in a multitude of ways.
After Iowa State’s conference opening loss to Oklahoma, Tre King was challenged to be the most physical and best rebounder on the court. He answered the call terrifically. He scored nine points and collected nine tough rebounds.
Big opportunities await the Cyclones
The Cyclones finally picked up their first signature win of the season. The win doesn’t just have significance because of the No. 2 ranking, but it holds major significance because of who they beat.
Houston has been a program on the rise the past five to six seasons. That includes trips to numerous NCAA Tournaments and a Final Four appearance. This win will hold major weight when Selection Sunday rolls around.
Saturday is another opportunity to defend homecourt against a team that has beaten the Cyclones at home often the past four years. In the press conference following the Houston game, Otzelberger was animated as ever.
“No one is going to bully us or push us around at home,” Otzelberger said. “No one is going to call us an underdog at home.”
Winning at home has never been more important than this year. If Iowa State wants to be a contender for the league championship, holding serve there will be at the upmost importance.