Iowa State Cyclones guard Tamin Lipsey (3) and guard Keshon Gilbert (10) celebrate after winning 79-75 over Kansas in the Big-12 conference showdown of an NCAA college basketball at Hilton Coliseum on Saturday, Jan. 27, 2024, in Ames, Iowa. © Nirmalendu Majumdar/Ames Tribune / USA TODAY NETWORK
AMES — Iowa State guard Keshon Gilbert smiled and delivered a heartfelt, four-word message.
“Shoutout to the fans,” the St. Louis native and UNLV transfer said.
But before speaking those appreciative words, Gilbert simply shot the lights out of a sold-out and amped-up Hilton Coliseum late in Saturday’s win over No. 7 Kansas.
The 6-4 junior drained a shot clock buzzer-beating 3-pointer with 41 seconds left to essentially seal the No. 23 Cyclones’ 79-75 triumph over the Jayhawks — and moments later, fans streamed onto the Hilton floor to celebrate.
“As soon as the buzzer went off, I looked up and there was a crowd of people,” said former Eastern Kentucky transfer Tre King, who led ISU (16-4, 5-2 Big 12) with 21 points while draining a career-high four 3-pointers. “It’s truly special. It was the first time I’ve ever had the opportunity to have the court stormed.”
Kansas (16-4, 4-3) trailed by as many as 12 points early in the second half, but pulled within two, at 74-72, before Gilbert’s fateful 3-pointer from the top of the key tumbled through the net. Gilbert scored nine of his 16 points in the final 4:29 and also drew primary guard duty on Jayhawks star senior Kevin McCullar, who scored 16 points — four below his average — but needed 18 field goal attempts to do so.
“When you’re tasked with guarding Kevin McCullar, who’s probably as aggressive offensively as any player in the league and you do the job he did defensively, what we preach is the offense will come around for you,” said ISU head coach T.J. Otzelberger, whose team notched its second top-10 win of the season. “And it certainly felt like late in the game, it’s Keshon baseline drive, Keshon finish in transition, Keshon hitting a big 3 late. He didn’t force the game. He didn’t try to take it when it wasn’t there. He stayed ready and when the opportunity presented itself, he was terrific.”
So were virtually all of the Cyclones from beyond the 3-point line. ISU entered the game ranked eighth in the Big 12 in long-range shooting, but drilled 14 of 30 against the Jayhawks. Kansas, meanwhile, sank just 7 of 20 from beyond the arc, and that disparity, Jayhawks coach Bill Self said, proved to be the difference in the game.
“We should have been able to get to shooters better, but give them credit,” Self said. “A lot of it was, could we have done better? Yes. A lot of it was, (that) they made shots they hadn’t been making statistically this year and we played the percentages, thinking coming up here that would be the smart play.”
On paper it was. In practice, it proved to be disastrous as five Cyclones sank multiple 3-pointers. Freshman forward Milan Momcilovic and senior guard Curtis Jones drained three long-range shots apiece, and Gilbert and sophomore guard Tamin Lipsey sank two each. ISU shot 60 percent from beyond the arc (9-for-15) in the second half to quell an array of rallies the Jayhawks tried to mount.
“We wanted to break it open, but they made runs and we were able to sort of trade buckets with them in that segment, so we were able to pull away at the end,” said Lipsey, who went 2-for-4 from the 3-point line after sinking just 2 of 13 from long range in his previous five games. “But playing in that atmosphere, you think every shot you take is going in just because of how loud the fans are and the vibe in the whole arena. (It’s) so good that you take all those shots with confidence.”
So did Gilbert, whose late heroics — and dagger of a 3-pointer — helped ISU topple Kansas for the second straight season at home.
“They kind of guarded a little bit different,” he said. “I really had nowhere to go, so I hit them with a little move and just shot it. I was lucky enough for it to go in.”