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No. 9 Iowa State enjoying surprise season, sees Chicago St. next

Iowa State climbed into the top 10 of the Associated Press poll for the first time since the 2015-16 season this week and will aim to complete its nonconference schedule unbeaten when the team hosts Chicago State on Tuesday night.

The No. 9 Cyclones (11-0) are coming off a 77-54 win against Southeastern Louisiana on Sunday, when they were sparked by 20 points from Caleb Grill and 17 from Izaiah Brockington.

Aljaz Kunc was the team's third-leading scorer with 13 points, and with Grill combined to shoot 9-for-13 from long range.

"It's really important to our team that they continue to stay in that rhythm, that teammates look for them, and they hunt those shots," Cyclones coach T.J. Otzelberger said. "I've got a lot of confidence in our other guys to shoot the basketball as well, but right now, those guys both have a good rhythm. We need to play to the strengths of our team."

Iowa State feels those attributes are myriad as the program continues to be among the talk of college basketball in the early season.

The Cyclones closed last season with 18 successive defeats and was picked in the preseason to finish last in the Big 12 Conference.

Tuesday marks Iowa State's final tune-up before the team is set to open conference play Jan. 1 at home against reigning national champion Baylor.

Chicago State's scheduled game at Drake on Sunday afternoon was postponed due to safety and health protocols within the CSU program.

The Cougars, in a university press release, left open the possibility that the game could be rescheduled. With Drake's scheduled showcase game against Saint Louis in Las Vegas on Wednesday canceled due to COVID-19 concerns within the Billikens' program, perhaps Drake-Chicago State could happen sooner than initially thought.

In the interim, though, the Cougars (4-7) will try to maintain momentum after winning at IUPUI on Thursday to snap a two-game losing streak. Chicago State earned its first road victory of the season -- and the program's first win away from home since Dec. 4, 2019 -- behind a balanced attack led by a season-best 17 points from Dominique Alexander.

Brandon Betson chipped in 15 points, Jahsean Corbett added 14 and Coreyoun Rushin snagged nine rebounds.

Cougars coach Gerald Gillion recently stressed the importance of focusing on fundamentals as the team aims to stay afloat on a road trip that is set to head west after Tuesday with scheduled trips to Grand Canyon and New Mexico State.

"Just focus on the little things, you know, the winnable things," Gillion said. "Taking charges, rebounding the basketball, knocking down free throws, executing. Like I say, whether you're at home for five games, on the road for five games, you've got to do the simple things in order to win."

Iowa State thumped Chicago State in both of the previous meetings between the schools, both played at Iowa State. The Cyclones cruised by 42 points on Nov. 16, 2015, and 41 points on Dec. 21, 2010.

--Field Level Media

Updated December 20, 2021

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