The week around Thanksgiving is billed as “Feast Week” on ESPN with all the televised college basketball tournaments. This year I was at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn covering the Upsie 2021 NIT Season Tip-Off Tournament on Wednesday November 24 and Friday November 26.
Since I would be spending Thanksgiving with a lifelong friend who’s an Iowa State grad, it was appropriate that the Cyclones opened the tournament with a 12 point 82-70 victory over a tough Xavier Musketeers team. The cyclones led throughout the first half building a double digit lead, but Xavier went on a 12-2 run at the end of the half to lead by one at halftime 39-38. The second half was all Iowa State. They won the half by 13 points 44-31. They made 19 of 32 field goals, shooting almost 60 percent for the half. The Cyclones shot 51.5 percent for the game and forced 17 turnovers. Xavier shot 43.3 percent and forced 12 Iowa State turnovers. Izaiah Brockington led the Cyclones in minutes(38) & points(30) with 26 points in the second half. 18 year old Freshman Tyrese Hunter had 19 points in 29 minutes for the Cyclones. The Opening night win set the stage for an Iowa State Memphis final on Friday November 26 because Memphis beat Virginia Tech 69-61 in the nightcap.
On the Friday after Thanksgiving, Iowa State did not back down from 9th ranked Memphis. After building a 5 point halftime lead 32-27, the Cyclones throttled Memphis by 14 points in the 2nd half and won the Championship by nineteen 78-59. Gabe Kalscheur led the Cyclones with 30 points and 8 rebounds in 37 minutes of playing time. Kalscheur’s performance solidified his tournament MVP selection. As I sat next to Georges Niang, a two time All-American from Iowa State who plays for the Philadelphia 76ers, I voted for Izaiah Brockington, Tyrese Hunter and Gabe Kalscheur as my All-Tournament selections, circling Kalscheur as my MVP selection. The two 30 point scorers, Brockington and Kalscheur(MVP) made the All-Tournament team. Iowa State Coach T.J. Otzelbereger summed up the Cyclones secret to success in his postgame comments. “We preach to our guys on a daily basis that their habits will carry them when we get to the game. We’ve got a group that committed to getting up early all Summer… that comes to work with a great work ethic, a great attitude and it’s really neat to see these guys play for each other” Iowa State men’s basketball will surprise a lot of people this season with hard work, good attitude and playing for each other. It was a Joy to watch them play.