Jan 20, 2024; Fort Worth, Texas, USA; Iowa State Cyclones guard Keshon Gilbert (10) drives to the basket as TCU Horned Frogs guard Trevian Tennyson (11) defends during the second half at Ed and Rae Schollmaier Arena. Mandatory Credit: Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports
Tamin Lipsey broke Iowa State’s single-game steals mark earlier this season by strafing away eight takeaways against Prairie View A&M.
But Lipsey had to sit out Saturday’s top-25 duel with 19th-ranked TCU in Fort Worth because of a sprained shoulder, which meant Curtis Jones would start at point guard in his stead.
So, how’d that go?
Jones racked up seven steals to match the previous record shared by Fred Hoiberg and Justus Thigpen — and then hit two crucial free throws to help the No. 24 Cyclones hold off the Horned Frogs, 73-72, in Forth Worth, Texas.
“It means everything,” Jones said on the Cyclone Radio Network after the game. “This is a huge win versus a ranked team on the road. It’s already hard to win on the road, but versus a ranked team, it means a little more.”
The Cyclones (14-4, 3-2) tormented TCU in the first half, forcing 18 turnovers while building a 44-26 lead.
ISU outscored the Horned Frogs (13-5, 2-3) 29-to-4 in points off turnovers in the opening 20 minutes and led by as many as 19 points in the second half.
But TCU mounted three runs of 8-0 or better after the break — and the last one, a 13-2 splurge, nearly completed a rousing comeback.
“We had enough timely baskets throughout that second half, where whether it was a big shot, a big drive, or some free throws, that allowed us to get our defense set,” Cyclone head coach T.J. Otzelberger said.
Junior guard Keshon Gilbert led ISU with 20 points on 8-for-15 shooting while draining his first two 3-pointers in Big 12 play after an 0-for-8 start. Jones, a Buffalo transfer, finished a conference career-high 17 points on 6-for-12 shooting while matching Gilbert and senior forward Hason Ward with four assists.
“It’s kind of been a different week,” said Jones, who’d totaled 12 points in his previous four Big 12 games. “The coaches have been telling me to be as aggressive as (I) want, not that they didn’t before, but they reasserted to me that just being aggressive and looking to hunt shots, and passing the ball to the right man was what I needed to do.”
Freshman forward Milan Momcilovic chipped in 10 points and sophomore guard Demarion Watson grabbed a team-best six rebounds off the bench. Four of those boards came on the offensive end, helping to set up teammates for a handful of much-needed second-chance buckets.
“I pride myself on bringing my team energy, especially because that’s what we need sometimes,” said Watson, who also scored six points in a career-high 25 minutes. “We need that boost of energy, that spark of energy off the bench.
Especially with Lipsey — an Ames native who leads the Cyclones on scoring, assists and steals — out for at least Saturday’s game.
“He loves this team,” Watson said of Lipsey. “He loves the city of Ames. So we just decided collectively we’ve got to do this for Tamin. We’ve got to work our butts off for Tamin.”
ISU ended up forcing 27 TCU turnovers — the most ever in a single game during head coach Jamie Dixon’s tenure. Next up for the Cyclones? A Wednesday matchup with Kansas State at Hilton Coliseum.
“We know it’s gonna be another big challenge,” Otzelberger said.
ISU surmounted Saturday’s steep challenge by rebounding from an 87-72 road loss at No. 20 BYU. The Cyclones forced a season-low-tying 11 turnovers in that game, but proved against the Horned Frogs why they boast the nation’s most disruptive defense according to KenPom in terms of getting takeaways.
“We really put our focus and our emphasis on those specific areas and our guys stepped up in a major way in practice and it carried over to (Saturday),” Otzelberger said.