Iowa State basketball finishes undefeated home season with comeback against BYU

AMES – Pushed to its absolute limits, Hilton Coliseum remained standing.

And the team that calls it home proved itself unbeatable there.

Sixth-ranked Iowa State completed the fifth undefeated home season in program history and kept itself in the running for a shared Big 12 championship by taking everything No. 23 BYU had to offer in a 68-63 victory Wednesday night.

"That was a tough win," Iowa State guard Curtis Jones said after scoring 18 points. "I don’t know how we pulled that one out."

The Cougars led by as many as 14 in the second half, but it wasn’t a big enough cushion to spoil the Cyclones’ senior night, their perfect home record or their pursuit of a Big 12 trophy.

Iowa State went into halftime trailing at home for the first time this season, and it appeared as they had no answer for a Cougar offense that shredded the Cyclones in their January loss in Provo.

"They challenge a lot of things we do defensively with their shooting and spacing," Iowa State coach T.J. Otzelberger said.

Instead, the Iowa State defense regained its footing, the offense discovered a pulse and the Cyclones found themselves in a tie game by the eight-minute mark.

Robert Jones’ bucket with 2:51 remaining gave the Cyclones a one-point advantage that they would not relinquish.

It was Iowa State’s defense that pushed it to the finish line as Jones’ bucket was the Cyclones’ last field goal.

Tamin Lipsey scored 19 points for Iowa State.

After shooting 57.7% from the field in the first half, BYU shot 23.3% after halftime.

It was an incredible turnaround not only for how hot the Cougars started, especially considering they dismantled the Cyclones back in January. Iowa State gave up a season-worst 87 points in that contest against a BYU team with the spacing, shooting and passing capable of solving the Cyclones' elite defense.

Iowa State guard Tamin Lipsey posted a team-high 19 points in Wednesday's win over BYU.
Iowa State guard Tamin Lipsey posted a team-high 19 points in Wednesday's win over BYU.

The comeback may not have been as steep or as dramatic as some in Hilton Coliseum’s history, but it could ultimately prove to rank among the most important.

Saturday's stakes

The victory keeps the Cyclones' chances at their first Big 12 regular-season title since 2001 alive.

Iowa State would first need to beat Kansas State on the road Saturday afternoon, and then No. 1 Houston would have to fall at home to No. 15 Kansas.

In that scenario, the Cyclones and Houston would be co-champs. The Cougars guaranteed themselves at least a piece of the title by beating UCF on Wednesday.

"It’s pretty awesome going into the last game of the season and putting yourself in a position to give yourself a chance to potentially win a conference championship," Otzelberger said. "We all do this for a long time. It doesn’t happen much, and to do it in the best league in the country, really awesome opportunity in front of us on Saturday.

"We’ve put ourselves in great position, and we are going to be ready to be at our best to do what we can on our end to finish the regular season."

Iowa State cannot fall below a No. 2 seed in the Big 12 Tournament, and the Cyclones could move into the top seed with a win and losses by Houston and Baylor on Saturday.

"Just having a fighting shot at that going into the last game of the regular season is huge," Lipsey said, "and we take a lot of pride in that."

"It’s the last game of the season, and we’re going to go out there and win."

How the Cyclones did it

BYU averaged 1.26 points per possession while shooting 63.6% from inside the arc and 37% on 35 attempts from beyond it in their win over Iowa State in January. The Cougars posted 1.22 PPP on 57.7% shooting in the first half Wednesday

In the second half, BYU registered 0.78 PPP while making 7 of 30 shots from the floor, including 2 of 15 from deep.

The Cougars also tallied 17 total turnovers.

"Their aggressiveness and their rim protection were elite," BYU coach Mark Pope said. "Their closing speed to the ball is as good as we’ve seen all year.

"Credit to Iowa State for exerting the pressure they did. That’s what they do."

What the Cyclones did down the final stretch of the game was one of their most impressive feats yet this season.

The Cyclones held BYU without a field goal for the final 5:47 and without a point over the final 4:24. The Cougars went 0 of 6 from the field and committed three turnovers in those final four minutes as Iowa State took and held on to the lead while only scoring one basket of its own during that time.

"At the end of the day," Lipsey said, "if the score stayed like that, we win the game."

Up next

It's not just the Big 12 title possibilities that make Saturday's matchup an intriguing one for the Cyclones.

Even without the possibility of a championship, there would still be plenty of juice for Iowa State’s trip to Manhattan to face Kansas State on Saturday (1 p.m.; ESPN2).

More: T.J. Otzelberger refutes allegations of Iowa State basketball spying on Kansas State's huddles

It will be a rematch of January’s game that will be remembered not for the Cyclones’ 78-67 win, but for Kansas State coach Jerome Tang’s pair of demonstrative outbursts during the game. It was later reported that the Wildcats suspected Iowa State of a scheme in which Kansas State’s huddle was being monitored and then information from it relayed back to Iowa State.

The Cyclones strenuously denied the accusations, which were bizarre on their face given the complexity the scheme would require along with the limited benefit it would seemingly have.

"The ludicrous rumors ... that somehow we were trying to gain an advantage looking into our opponents' huddles is an affront to our players, our fans and to me,” Otzelberger said back in January. "It's not who I am. It's not what our program is about, and I'm angry that someone would even make that suggestion."

Beyond the potential implications in the Big 12 standings, Saturday will also provide the Cyclones a chance to add to an NCAA Tournament resume that looks built to receive first- and second-round games in Omaha as a potential No. 2 seed.

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

This article originally appeared on Des Moines Register: Iowa State basketball comes back to beat BYU, finish perfect at home