Hunter scores 23 as Iowa State edges LSU in NCAA tourney

Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports
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MILWAUKEE — Freshman Tyrese Hunter scored 23 points and Iowa State made itself at home in Milwaukee once again, using its hard-nosed defense to beat No. 6 seed LSU 59-54 in the first round of the NCAA Tournament on Friday night.

Izaiah Brockington added 19 points as the 11th-seeded Cyclones (21-12) got their first win in the NCAA tourney since 2017 – also in Milwaukee. They held the Tigers to 37% shooting and forced 19 turnovers, stopping a three-game slide.

Hunter, who grew up in nearby Racine, made six of his seven 3-pointers in the second half, sending coach T.J. Otzelberger to one sweet victory. The 44-year-old Otzelberger grew up in Milwaukee, went to Wisconsin-Whitewater and began his coaching career at Catholic Central High School in Burlington.

Otzelberger was hired after Iowa State won just two games last season. Now the Cyclones are into the second round of the Midwest Region, where they will face the Colgate-Wisconsin winner on Sunday.

Tari Eason scored 18 points for LSU, and senior Darius Days had 14. But they didn’t get much help.

It was the first game for the Tigers since coach Will Wade was fired last weekend amid allegations of NCAA violations. Associate head coach Bill Armstrong also was let go.

An LSU fan in the stands behind the team’s bench held up a sign that read “Win For WADE” as the game got started.

Kevin Nickelberry was elevated to interim coach, and the Tigers turned in their usual stellar effort on defense. But they struggled on the other side. The team also received a technical for having too many players on the court at one point in the second half.

Iowa State, which shot 36% from the field, opened a 50-39 lead on Brockington’s 3 with 7:09 left. But LSU responded with an 11-1 run.

After Days’ foul shot got the Tigers within one, Hunter connected on a long 3 to give the Cyclones some room. He nailed another long one from a similar spot with 19 seconds left, lifting his team to a 59-54 lead.

In between all the missed shots and turnovers, each team had its moments. Hunter had an acrobatic layup early on, and then beat the shot clock with a 3-pointer for a 24-12 lead with 6:37 left in the first half.

But LSU came right back. Eric Gaines had a huge block on a driving Brockington with 4:35 left, part of a 7-0 run for the Tigers to close the first half.

The halftime numbers were bleak; Iowa State was 9 for 27 from the field, and LSU was 7 for 27 with 10 turnovers.

CLOSE TIES

Hunter played for Nick Bennett at St. Catherine’s High School. Bennett is the cousin of Virginia coach Tony Bennett and the nephew of former Wisconsin coach Dick Bennett.

BIG PICTURE

LSU: The coaching search is on. Look for athletic director Scott Woodward to try for another big name after hiring football coach Brian Kelly from Notre Dame, Hall of Fame women’s basketball coach Kim Mulkey from Baylor and baseball coach Jay Johnson from Arizona.

Iowa State: It wasn’t pretty, but the Cyclones will take it. They very nearly squandered their big lead down the stretch.