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March Madness: No. 2 Iowa State rallies to get past No. 7 Washington State, reach Sweet 16

After an awful shooting start, the Cyclones fended off Washington State to grab a 67-56 win in Omaha on Saturday night

The Cyclones are headed to their second Sweet 16 in three years.
The Cyclones are headed to their second Sweet 16 in three years. (Michael Reaves/Getty Images) (Michael Reaves via Getty Images)

It was a pretty rough offensive performance all around, especially in the early minutes, but T.J. Otzelberger and No. 2 Iowa State are headed back to the Sweet 16.

The Cyclones pulled ahead late to beat No. 7 Washington State 67-56 at the CHI Health Center in Omaha on Saturday afternoon in their second-round game in the NCAA tournament. The win officially sent the Cyclones back to their second Sweet 16 appearance in the last three seasons under Otzelberger, and set up a matchup with No. 3 Illinois in Boston next weekend.

The Cyclones got off to perhaps the worst possible start on Saturday afternoon. Washington State opened the game on an 11-4 run while the Cyclones missed 13 of their first 14 shots. They just couldn’t get a bucket to fall.

But thankfully, Washington State wasn’t much better. The Cougars shot just 4-of-11 from the field by the time the teams broke for the under-12 timeout. Despite shooting just 9-of-29 from the field as a team in the first half, the Cyclones closed the period on an 8-2 burst to enter the locker room tied 27-27. Washington State’s Jaylen Wells kept them in it in the first half almost single-handedly, too. He had 16 of his 20 points in the game in the first 20 minutes.

Though the Cyclones opened the second half on a 6-0 burst to finally get some separation, it wasn’t until a huge Tamin Lipsey step-back 3-pointer late in the period that Iowa State finally pulled away. He followed it up with an assist to Tre King down low, which gave the Cyclones a 10-point lead.

From there they simply held on to take the 11-point win and punch their ticket to the Sweet 16.

Wells finished with 20 points and four rebounds to lead Washington State, though he shot just 2-of-11 from the 3-point line. Myles Rice added 13 points for the Cougars. He was the only other Washington State player to hit double figures. The Cougars shot just 5-of-23 from behind the arc as a team, and they committed eight turnovers in the second half alone.

The Cougars made the NCAA tournament for the first time in 16 seasons this spring. Longtime Virginia coach Tony Bennett last led them to the Sweet 16 in 2008, though they fell to North Carolina that season. Washington State barely got past No. 10 Drake in its opening-round matchup, which ended the possibility of an all-Iowa matchup in the second round in Omaha.

Lipsey led the Cyclones with 15 points and five rebounds in the win. Curtis Jones added 14 points off the bench, and both Keshon Gilbert and Milan Momcilovic added 10 points each. The Cyclones ended up shooting just better than 40% from the field as a team and committed just six turnovers.

Iowa State surged ahead in the second half to pick up a 17-point win over No. 15 South Dakota State to open the tournament, which backed up a 28-point win over top-ranked Houston in the Big 12 title game the week before. The Cyclones will now take on Illinois next weekend, where a spot in what would be their first Elite Eight since 2000 will be on the line.

Even though it wasn’t great at times on Saturday, the Cyclones have won five straight and seem as good as anyone still alive in the NCAA tournament — especially if they can eliminate that rough offensive stretch next time out in Boston.