Gabe Kalscheur scored 30 points and led Iowa State to a 78-59 win over No. 9 Memphis in the NIT Season Tip-Off championship game on Friday night.
Kalscheur was named MVP of the tournament. Tristan and Aljaz Kunc each scored 11 points for the Cyclones (6-0), who led by five points at halftime and increased their advantage to as much as 25 in the second half.
“For our guys it was settling into the game,” Iowa State coach T.J. Otzelberger said. “A part of this for us was understanding that we can have longer possessions offensively. I thought we had a lot of success down the stretch in the first half. With longer possessions we’re able to move the ball.”
Emoni Bates led Memphis (5-1) with 12 points and Landers Nolley II scored 11. Coach Penny Hardaway’s Tigers entered as an 11 1/2-point favorite, according to FanDuel Sportsbook.
“This loss cut (my players) deep,” Hardaway said. “They thought we were just (going to) walk out on the floor and beat Iowa State. And it just doesn’t work that way.”
The Cyclones were not fazed by their more celebrated opponent.
Much like they did in their win over No. 25 Xavier Wednesday, the Cyclones generated their offense in the paint. Iowa State outscored Memphis 22-16 over the first ten minutes of the second half, with 10 of the Cyclones’ points coming on layups and Izaiah Brockington’s two-handed alley-oop jam.
“Our guys should have the confidence that they can beat good teams,” Otzelberger said. “And if they continue to work at the same level that we’ve worked, that there could be some more of those type of victories in our future.”
Iowa State: Otzelberger is in his first year with a program that went 2-22 in 2020-21. His rebuild has focused on defense and rebounding. Entering Friday night, the Cyclones were limiting opponents to 39.3% shooting from the field, including 23.9% from 3-point range, and have averaged 2.6 more rebounds than their opponents. Iowa State outrebounded Memphis 42-34 and limited the Tigers to 35.8% shooting.
“All the guys on our team bought in from the jump,” Otzelberger said. “They bought in when we had everybody here for the first time in June. They all bought in. It wasn’t unwilling. It was more voluntary cooperation.”
Memphis: The Tigers entered the season with the best recruiting class in the country, including celebrated freshman Jalen Duren. But Hardaway warned after Wednesday’s win over Virginia Tech that his team is still learning how to play cohesively. That proved true on Friday as Memphis committed 22 turnovers.
“It’s just bad basketball overall from everybody,” Hardaway said. “Not just the youth, everybody. You can’t go 1-on-1 (at) this level. Teams load up; we understand that. … We’re getting it done in practice but when the game starts, it kind of goes out the window.”
Iowa State: Hosts Arkansas-Pine Bluff on Wednesday.
Memphis: At Georgia on Wednesday.