Tamin Lipsey grew up Sunday night.
The maturation happened in a 71-53 loss against Connecticut in the championship game of the Phil Knight Invitational. It happened with the former Ames High School star’s 12 points on 6-of-8 shooting. It happened with his all-around floor game against one of the nation’s finest teams.
We knew he’d be good, and Sunday night while playing in the Portland, Oregon, event, we saw flashes of it.
“He played well,” coach T.J. Otzelberger said on the postgame radio show. “Tamin did a great job keeping his dribble alive. It’s something we’ll need to continue to do, as we play aggressive teams."
Iowa State going 2-1 in this prestigious tournament wasn’t the worst thing that could happen to Otzelberger’s team.
His Cyclones beat half of last season’s NCAA Final Four field − Villanova in the tournament’s first game, and then top-ranked North Carolina in overtime. They entered the coaches' weekly rankings at No. 23 Monday. The experience they gained in those games and against Connecticut will be invaluable once getting to the grinder also known as the Big 12 Conference.
“There’s a lot of positive to take away from this tournament,” Otzelberger said. “Our guys will be upbeat. They’ll be ready to get back to the practice floor.”
Sunday’s problem was multi-faceted. Caleb Grill, Jaren Holmes and Jaz Kunz missed valuable minutes of the first half after collecting their third fouls in the physical game. That wasn’t the only reason for the 10-point deficit at the break, but it certainly was a contributor.
That foul trouble resulted in Connecticut going 15-for-20 from the free throw line in the opening 20 minutes, while the Cyclones were 5-of-7.
Iowa State’s other problem was an inability to crack Connecticut’s defense. Each time Cyclone shooters had the ball on the perimeter, they were greeted with a hand in their face. Open looks that were available against North Carolina on Friday weren’t there on Sunday.
“UConn is playing as well as anybody in the country,” Otzelberger said. “They don’t let you get open looks. They did a great job getting to (Gabe) Kalscheur and Grill, taking away our perimeter looks.”
That was especially true for Grill, who missed all five shots he attempted. It wasn’t anything like Friday, when the senior scored 31 points against the Tar Heels. He owned the three-point arc to the tune of 7-of-11 accuracy. Sunday, he scored just one point and was 0-for-3 from three-point range.
Osun Osunniyi led 5-1 Iowa State with 14 points, and Holmes added 11.
“This is a learning experience,” Osunniyi said on the radio postgame show. “We’re not going to hang our hats on this one loss. We had two really good wins.”
One more area that needs cleaning up is rebounding, where Connecticut had a whopping 48-19 advantage.
“Physically, we’ve got to be able to hit people,” Otzelberger said. “I don’t feel like we did the job hitting bodies and keeping bodies off the board like we need to do.”
Learn from Sunday night adversity, and Otzelberger’s team should be all right.
The defeat against Connecticut ended Iowa State’s 18-game winning streak against regular-season non-conference opponents. Since it had to end sometime, it’s better coming against a nationally ranked team that’s 8-0 than against one of those non-conference opponents no one’s heard of.
Iowa State columnist Randy Peterson embarked on his 50th year of writing sports for the Des Moines Register in December 2021. Reach him at email@example.com, 515-284-8132, and on Twitter at @RandyPete.
This article originally appeared on Des Moines Register: Iowa State's men lost against No. 22 Connecticut in the Phil Knight Invite