Peterson: Iowa State basketball's Caleb Grill was spectacular against top-ranked North Carolina

Caleb Grill emphatically showed college basketball that Iowa State is back. He did it with a 31-point game for the ages Friday afternoon, against none other than top-ranked North  Carolina.

The senior was at his three-point shooting best during the 70-65 victory. None of seven three-point baskets were bigger than the one from way behind the line that tied the game with 2:24 to play.

"It was a good feeling," Grill said on the postgame radio show. "They let me get some open looks, and I knew I had to capitalize on them."

Get this: Grill finished the game with a career-best 31 points. He was an extraordinary 7-of-11 from three-point range. Unquestionably, he was college basketball’s most talked-about player after Iowa State sent the college basketball world a message.

Grill came into the game with just four three-pointers in 24 tries, so Friday’s first half was encouraging.

Even when North Carolina turned up the defensive heat against Grill, the Cyclone from Wichita, Kansas, figured out a way. He was especially impressive in scoring in the lane over 6-foot-11 Armando Bacot, a preseason All-American, early in the second half.

Grill went back to his comfort-zone, the three-point line, where his fifth three-pointer gave Iowa State a 43-39 lead.

"We don’t know who’s going to be good offensively every night," coach T.J. Otzelberger said. "Tonight, it was Caleb's night.

"Caleb means a great deal to me. He’s doing the work every single day. We don’t flinch when an outcome isn’t going on our way on a given day or a moment. We know Caleb’s put in the work."

Previously:Iowa State men's basketball answers Villanova's grit to earn date with No. 1 North Carolina

Iowa State's foul trouble wasn’t an excuse, it was reality

Osun Osunniyi, the Cyclones’ 6-10 rim protector, had two within a 2-second span of the game’s first 90 seconds. North Carolina was in the bonus for the first half’s final 14 minutes, but there’s more.

Holmes got his fourth foul with 12:38 remaining in the game. Iowa State’s No. 2 scorer went to the bench during a 43-all game, but Otzelberger was forced to send him back in. The Cyclones needed to counter the Tar Heels’ late-game scoring.

"He took it over," Otzelberger said. "When you’re playing a team as good as North Carolina, you’re throwing all the analytics and the numbers out the window. We out him back on the court."

I don’t know how many times the Cyclones got called for charging, but it seemed like a lot. They overcame that for their third win against a top-ranked team in school history.

They overcame that with Grill. They overcame with with Jaren Holmes' 21 points. They overcame that with defense that is this program's staple. They did all that against the nation's No. 1-ranked team.

Iowa State's Jaren Holmes reacts after scoring against North Carolina during the first half of Friday's game in Portland, Ore.
Iowa State's Jaren Holmes reacts after scoring against North Carolina during the first half of Friday's game in Portland, Ore.

I also liked Robert Jones’ energy-based game. He was as good as he’s ever been.

With Osunniyi in foul trouble, coach Otzelberger’s team needed every bit of Jones it could get.

Jones’ early second-half flurry of determination and aggressiveness resulted in a 40-39 Iowa State lead with 15:14 left in the game. Television cameras showed where the Cyclones’ fourth-ranked women’s basketball team sat, and yeah, they were excited.

Grill made his fifth three-point basket to make it 43-39. That’s one more than he made, combined, in the previous four games.

More:Peterson: This time last year, we learned Iowa State men’s basketball was the real deal

Let’s not understate what Friday’s game did for true freshman point guard Tamin Lipsey.

The former Ames High School star played well against the nation’s top-ranked team.

This came after Lipsey made four free throws, his only points in the opening-round overtime win against Villanova, in the extra session’s final 20 seconds. He also had a key steal during that last-minute stretch.

Iowa State columnist Randy Peterson embarked on his 50th year of writing sports for the Des Moines Register in December 2021. Reach him at, 515-284-8132, and on Twitter @RandyPete.

This article originally appeared on Des Moines Register: Peterson: Iowa State's Caleb Grill was spectacular vs. No. 1 North Carolina