Tre Jackson Grambling State

Iowa State guard Tre Jackson shoots a three-pointer against Grambling State on Nov. 21.

The challenge was given from T.J. Otzelberger to his team on Sunday: play a complete 40 minutes of basketball, led with the habits built every day.

Mission accomplished.

The Cyclones rolled Grambling State 82-47 with lights-out shooting from behind the arc and defensive intensity — mostly from bench pieces.

It was intense. Charges were being taken. Deflections. Grittiness on the glass. All of what Otzelberger has poured into the Cyclones came to light on Sunday.

"Tonight [Sunday] was the first time all those things came out one night and we played with that rhythm, we pressured the basketball, our defense was stingy, we rebounded with effort and we had the toughness with the ball," Otzelberger said after the win.

In short, Iowa State put all of its habits together for truly the first time on Sunday. And now, it's up to the Cyclones to see if it can continue.

Three point shooting

Three games into the Otzelberger era, shooting from distance was a problem.

The Cyclones walked into Sunday's game a combined 16-71 from three (22 percent), including a 1-20 outing against Alabama State on Nov. 16.

But the shots were falling on Sunday, with Iowa State ending the night 13-25 from beyond the arc (52 percent). 11 of the 13 makes came off the bench.

Aljaz Kunc knocked down five three-pointers on the night, finishing with a career-high 21 points. Kunc noted after the game that the Cyclones have multiple players on the roster who at one point in their respective careers showed an ability to make shots.

All they needed was some time. After Sunday's barrage from deep, Kunc and his teammates feel confident with where they're at.

"We have veteran guys that proved in the past they can hit shots. And that's what we did today," Kunc said.

Feb 6, 2020 against Oklahoma was the last time Iowa State finished with at least 12 threes made in a game.

The threes falling was a good sign for Otzelberger. But what he liked even more was the selflessness from his team. The Cyclones dished out 21 assists on 29 made field goals, giving Otzelberger pride in knowing his team made the extra effort to find the right guys on the floor.

It also helps when they're throwing strikes to one another. Open shooters can be found if the Cyclones stay patient and smart with the ball. Consider Sunday a perfect game. (Baseball reference aside, let Otzelberger explain).

"What I liked even more than the shot-making was guys were looking for each other," Otzelberger said. "We put a lot of emphasis on, we're calling it balls and strikes. We want to throw strikes when we pass to shooters. And we know those guys can make shots."

Aljaz Kunc/Tre Jackson boxout

Aljaz Kunc (left) and Tre Jackson (right) box out for a rebound against Grambling State on Nov. 21.

Four spot comes alive

Otzelberger has talked up his roster's ability to switch and present different rotations on a given night all off-season. Sunday might have been a breakthrough for the four position for the Cyclones, giving this team another chance to test the waters and see who can produce at a high level.

And that's all it comes down to at the power forward position for Otzelberger: production.

The head coach of the Cyclones has told Tristan Enaruna and Kunc that it's one thing to say you're going to get better and stay focused, it's another to go out and get the job done. Sunday night vs the Tigers both players did the job and did it well.

Enaruna posted a career-high 15 points on 7-10 shooting from the field, along with nine rebounds. Enaruna attacked the offensive glass and pulled down four offensive boards, helping the Cyclones out-rebound Grambling State 46-22.

Kunc had a career night as well. The senior transfer from Washington State had 21 points in 23 minutes, shot 5-5 from deep, 2-3 from the foul line, grabbed seven rebounds and dished out three assists.

"For 'Jaz, he's shown and proven and played in some high-level Pac-12 games. We know he can shoot the ball, he's an extremely intelligent defensive player. So, we need that from him night-in and night-out," Otzelberger said.

The four spot could be a swing position for this group and if the production stays at the level it was Sunday, the Cyclones' ceiling could be raised according to Otzelberger.

Turnovers remain low

Taking care of the basketball is one of the many habits the Cyclones have tried to play with in their first four games. Sunday was a continuation of positive signs of not turning the ball over like they got last time out.

Iowa State turned the ball over 11 times on Sunday, including three in the first half. Iowa State posted only eight turnovers for the game against Alabama State on Nov. 16.

Just like defensive effort, making the extra pass or any other detail Otzelberger wants his team to focus on, Kunc said the Cyclones can shore up turnover problems even more than what's been seen over the past two wins.

"We had 11 turnovers. I think we can do better than that, make it single digits," Kunc said. "But like I said, what we do in practice translates into the game."

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