AMES, Iowa (AP) — Iowa State coach T.J. Otzelberger didn’t particularly like the way his team started against Arkansas-Pine Bluff, and he really didn’t like the way it finished.
In between, the 19th-ranked Cyclones got enough done to beat the outmanned Golden Lions 83-64 on Wednesday night.
The Cyclones (7-0), who this week entered the AP Top 25 for the first time since Feb. 2019, extended their best start since 2015-16 five nights after they won the NIT Season Tip-Off in New York.
Even though his team came in on a high with its sudden success following a two-win 2020-21 season, Otzelberger said he was surprised the focus wasn’t there against the Lions.
“I thought we had some good practices, but it didn’t show up the way we’d like tonight,” he said. “The standard that we have for our program defensively is at a much higher level than to allow a team to score 42 points on our court in the second half where we fouled 13 times and they shot 48%.”
Izaiah Brockington had 23 points and 10 rebounds for his third double-double of the season, Tre Jackson scored 12 points and George Conditt added 11 points and seven rebounds for Iowa State.
The Cyclones came into the game allowing 59.8 points per game, and opponents were shooting 38.8% from the field. The Lions shot 40% for the game, but baskets came in bunches and they outscored ISU 26-15 over the final eight minutes.
The atmosphere in the postgame news conference was more like after a loss than a 19-point win.
“It just stems from the fact we know we didn’t play our best on either end really,” Brockington said, “and I feel we let offense kind of bring the defense down, and we just can’t have that. We’re a defensive team first and foremost. We have to get better with our habits and come out and be ready next game.”
Shawn Williams was 4 for 7 on 3-pointers and scored 21 points to lead Arkansas-Pine Bluff (1-8). Trey Sampson scored 16 points and Kylen Milton 13 for the Lions.
The game started off as a slog. The Cyclones, who came in having trailed for a total of 10 minutes in their first six games, missed 12 of their first 14 shots and trailed early.
The Cyclones took their first lead at the start of a 13-0 run, when Jackson made a steal at midcourt and passed to Brockington, who finished with a fast-break dunk. They outscored the Lions 33-13 the last 12 minutes of the half and led 38-22 at the break.
Williams hit a pair of deep 3s to help Arkansas-Pine Bluff get within 46-32, but Caleb Grill and Jackson hit back-to-back 3s and the Cyclones went on to lead by as many as 30 points.
Iowa State played Arkansas-Pine Bluff for a second straight year. The Cyclones beat the Lions 80-63 last season for one of their two wins.
“We didn’t play well and we still came out with a win,” Otzelberger said. “We need to get to the practice court tomorrow and get our habits back in line.”
Arkansas-Pine Bluff: The Lions have played eight of their first nine on the road, not unusual for a SWAC team that relies on money games early in the season to fund its athletic program. Their eight losses are by an average of 22 points.
Iowa State: Coming off the high of back-to-back wins over Top 25 opponents Xavier and Memphis and their first ranking in three seasons, the Cyclones might have had an emotional hangover early. Once Brockington and Conditt got going, it was game over.
Iowa State: Visits Creighton on Saturday. The Bluejays are led by former Iowa State coach Greg McDermott, who gave current Otzelberger his first Power Five conference assistant’s job.
UAPB: Visits defending national champion Baylor on Saturday. The Lions lost 99-42 to the Bears last year.