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Iowa State basketball dominates No. 1 Houston to win Big 12 tournament title

KANSAS CITY, Mo. – Iowa State was already out of the wilderness.

Back-to-back NCAA Tournament berths and a Sweet 16 have undone much of the damage inflicted by the worst season in program history that preceded it. The reputation of Cyclone Basketball has been restored.

Iowa State, however, hadn't quite returned to the former glory of the previous decade, when the Cyclones were a national contender, winning titles and possessing real Final Four aspirations.

The Cyclones have been a good story under head coach TJ Otzelberger, but not much more in the national landscape.

That changed Saturday night when Iowa State emphatically and triumphantly announced itself as undoubtedly one of the best teams in the country.

The No. 8 Cyclones completely dismantled Houston, the nation's top-ranked team and regular-season conference champion, in a 69-41 victory to capture the Big 12 Tournament championship.

“The ceiling is the best team in the country,” point guard Tamin Lipsey said of the Cyclones. “Obviously we just beat Houston, who was the former No. 1 in the country. Obviously our goal is a national championship.

“We know there is still much to do in March.”

Iowa State had three players finish in double figures, led by Milan Momcilovic's 18 points. Keshon Gilbert added 16 points while Hason Ward scored 13.

Gilbert was named tournament MVP.

The Cyclones shot 50% from the floor that night and 41% from beyond the arc on 9-for-22 shooting. Otzelberger's team held a potent Houston offense to just 27%. shooting from the floor and a meager 18% (4 for 22) from long range.

With this victory, the 2-22 team Otzelberger inherited seems like a bad dream from long ago. It's an echo of the best stretch in Iowa State basketball history, when the Cyclones made seven NCAA Tournaments in eight years, made two Sweet 16s and won four Big 12 tournaments.

This team, however, in beating a Houston team that has spent the last two months steamrolling the Big 12, has the potential to do what none of them could do.

Go even further in the NCAA tournament.

“We warned a lot of people,” Tre King said.

The Cyclones were tougher, more physical and better defensively than the Cougars, who had won 11 straight games and their last three by an average of 22 points. This puts Iowa State at the forefront of the national conversation at just the right time.

Iowa State is good at the Final Four.

“We played with our identity,” Otzelberger said. “We defended. We rebounded. We shared the basketball.

“That’s what we will continue to do.”

Now the world is watching. And he should know what the Cyclones are capable of accomplishing.

“I hope so,” senior Robert Jones said, “and if they don’t know what ISU is capable of, they’re fools.”


Iowa State will learn NCAA Tournament details in less than 24 hours.

The Cyclones are projected to land second at the Omaha site by most experts, but that won't be official until the Selection Show on CBS at 5 p.m. Sunday.

This will mark the third straight season that Iowa State has made the NCAA Tournament in Otzelberger's three seasons. The Cyclones reached the Sweet 16 in 2022 and were upset in the first round last season.

Travis Hines covers Iowa State University sports for the Des Moines Register and Ames Tribune. Contact him at Or (515) 284-8000. FFollow him at @TravisHines21.

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