Iowa State earned a critical Big 12 road win on Wednesday night as the Cyclones held off a late charge to beat No. 8 Texas Tech 68-64. Coming off of a two-game losing streak, both coming in close games, Iowa State’s road win solidified that they’ll remain a threat in a complicated Big 12.
Here are three takeaways from Iowa State’s win over Texas Tech.
Iowa State is getting more comfortable in tight games
One of the fascinating things to watch with this Iowa State team over the next several months will be how the young Cyclones continue to play at the end of close games.
Most of Iowa State’s wins have come in double-digit fashion this season. Single-digit wins have generally been tough to come by. Recently, that has hurt the Cyclones with two close losses in which Iowa State could have earned wins against Baylor and Kansas State.
Losing late leads and falling in close games wasn’t the case on Wednesday night. In a critical conference road game against the league’s only unbeaten team, Iowa State played a balanced, impressive first half, then held off the Red Raiders’ best, late charge to earn this win.
With so many capable weapons and great ball movement, the Cyclone offense is able to generate good looks and points against even the No. 1 defense in the country like Texas Tech. And although Iowa State can still have lapses at times defensively, they took Jarrett Culver’s best punch (more on him in a minute) and sustained to get right back in the Big 12 race.
Marial Shayok (20 points) and Michael Jacobson (14 points, 10 rebounds) both had strong efforts while Lindell Wigginton (11 points) and Nick Weiler-Babb (11 points) also contributed. Even with slow nights from offensively-capable players like Talen Horton-Tucker and Tyrese Haliburton, and Cameron Lard out with an ankle injury, the Cyclones still had plenty of firepower to hang 40 first-half points on the No. 1 defense in the country.
Iowa State might not be consistently great, but they have glimpses of strong play. Once Wigginton is more acclimated since his return, and Lard is also back in the rotation, the Cyclones will also have more depth and potential explosiveness.
Texas Tech needs consistent offensive help for Jarrett Culver
For as good as Texas Tech has been this season — No. 8 in the country, No. 1 KenPom defense, only unbeaten in the Big 12 entering tonight — there is still the glaring wart of their completely average offense.
With only sophomore Jarrett Culver as a gifted scorer, the Red Raiders struggle to generate offense for others during long stretches of time. Matt Mooney (eight points) and Davide Moretti (10 points) can both attain double-figures if they knock down catch-and-shoot opportunities and convert on swing drives, but they aren’t creating very much on their own against this level of athleticism like Iowa State has.
Culver (20 points, 16 rebounds) didn’t have his finest day from the floor at 7-for-21, but his ability to get to spots and take the looks he generally wants is nearly unparalleled in college hoops this season. Iowa State was successful defensively because they didn’t allow others to get loose while containing Culver to just a solid night with a variety of options.
Although Texas Tech needs to hit some three-pointers, or build a cushion, to be at its best, there is still a comforting feeling for the Red Raiders after this. Knowing that the No. 1 defense is still there as a backbone helps. Even with Culver having just a solid night, Texas Tech almost beat one of the Big 12’s more talented teams with its second-half defense and Culver’s will.
If the Red Raiders get more consistent offensive help from others then they’ll remain an elite team.
The Big 12 is wide open
With tonight’s results of Kansas State beating No. 20 Oklahoma on the road and Iowa State taking down previously-unbeaten Texas Tech, the Big 12 race is as wide-open just a few weeks in.
The Red Raiders at 4-1 have moved into a tie with Kansas atop the Big 12 standings while Kansas State, Iowa State, TCU and Baylor all only have two conference losses each. Oklahoma and Texas also loom as intriguing three-loss teams.
The Cyclones are the darkhorse since they’re the only team to beat Texas Tech and Kansas. Showing that they can hang with the top teams, Iowa State just has to stay consistent to stay in the race as they could be a team to watch.
Kansas has lost Udoka Azubuike and has to regroup a bit to win the league once again while Texas Tech remains a major threat thanks to their defense and Culver. Texas Tech and Kansas both also have two games remaining against each other, so we have a long way to go before anything is decided.