PK85 book: Iowa State’s Jaz Kunc wins Big 12 after three years at Washington State | SWX now ( News Iowa )

PORTLAND – Six days after being hired as Iowa State’s new head coach, defensive transfer TJ Otzelberger is confident he can make a winning impact for a program that didn’t do much a year ago.

Also, Jaz Kunc is eager to win some of his own.

Iowa State was coming off a two-win campaign in 2020-21 and Kunc, something Washington State coach Kyle Smith told the Cougars to advance while the Slovenian was still in Pullman, was looking at the NCAA Tournament. 41 wins in three seasons at the Palouse.

“At Washington State,” he said, “if you haven’t played a NCAA game in your college career, you haven’t done (something),” Kunc recalled. “I think those were his words.”

Kunc endured three difficult seasons at WSU, but appeared to be moving to the other side of the college basketball spectrum in Ames, Iowa, playing in all 35 games last season for an Iowa State team that advanced to the Sweet 16 playoff game before losing. to Miami

Otzelberger, a USU transfer, started 10 games, including twice in the Big Dance, and had career highs in minutes (22.4), defensive rebounds (3.1), assists (1.0), blocks (0.6) and steals (0.8). Kunc is happy to cross off one college circles bucket list, but he’s already working on the next one.

“It was a fun year,” he said. “But that’s in the past now. There’s a lot of good memories there and we’re trying to make another one this year.”

It may be too early to determine if the 2022-23 Cyclones are tournament-ready, but he’s not wasting time making new memories. One of them will undoubtedly be Thursday’s 81-79 overtime win over Villanova in the first round of the Phil Knight Invitational. Iowa State built a 16-point cushion five minutes into the second half, watched the Wildcats rally to force overtime and responded in the extra frame to pull out a two-point win.

“I feel that’s what we’re doing. We’re playing hard, we’re playing for each other,” Kunc said. Game plan, we executed it really well, putting it to the big guys in our station and just a lot of gravel. We upset him in the end.

Kunc wrapped up Iowa State’s toughness early in the half, snapping his elbow on a defensive play and holding it with his opposite hand as he jogged to the end of the field. He eventually found the ball in front of the forward, who caught and drilled a 3-pointer from the corner, extending ISU’s lead to 39-34.

Kunc finished with just six points on 2 of 6 shooting, but she pulled down a team-high six Cougar rebounds, two steals, two assists and a plus-8 finish. Kunc started all four games for undefeated Iowa State and had a 17-point, 10-rebound double-double in the Hurricanes’ 80-43 rout of North Carolina A&T.

“He’s a great player in terms of impacting the game. He makes great shots, he closes every possession, he’s a great basketball mover, he’s an incredible position defender,” Otzelberger said of Kunc. He knows what’s coming and how to defend. we expect from him those who do not appear on the stat sheet. It is really cool to see all the impactful things that he can do to win us games and that was certainly on display.

When he arrived in Pullman in 2018-19, Kunc weighed in at 6-foot-185 pounds. In five years at WSU and ISU, he added about 40 pounds on the board and is currently listed at 221 pounds on the Cyclones’ roster.

“I just eat, man,” Kunc said.

A bigger and stronger frame helped Kunc fit in better for the Big 12 Physical Conference.

“It’s the best conference in the nation, and it’s more physical than the Pac 12,” he said. “Of course there was an extraordinary talent in the PAC. In all the years I was there, the Pac 12 sent five, six guys to the league, but I feel like the Big 12 is just seasoned players. They come, they transfer a lot, they play hard, they play loud. … Every game in the Big 12 is a battle. Nothing is given and everything is earned. “

Otzelberger, who coached South Dakota State and UNLV before arriving at Iowa State, demanded a level of discipline from the players to allow Kunc to work out during his short tenure with the Cyclones.

“There is a standard that we follow, and then everything is in you and in us,” Kunc said. “We come every morning and at 6 o’clock, we practice hella morning. We come in the morning, we find work and it shows in the court.

Kunc is still keeping up with Smith and the Cougars — “shout out to TJ Bamba,” he quipped — but recently he’s been competing enough to catch most games on the West Coast. He and Iowa State guard Caleb Grill, a UNLV transfer, already have a friendly bet on the Dec. 10 game between the Cougars and Rebels.

“I hope they can doubt me,” Kunc said.

Reading, the Governors Heels are almost stunned

Two near upsets on day one of Phil Knight’s tournament. Former Eastern Washington coach Shantay Legans was among the first, virtually guiding Portland past top-ranked North Carolina to the Fashion Center.

The Pilots, with ex-Eagles Tyler Robertson and Jack Perry on the starting line, led for 13 minutes, 49 seconds and led with 4:32 remaining before the Tar Heels closed with a 16-6 run. Portland made just one touchdown in the final 4:32 – a Robertson 3-pointer – and went 1-eighth from the field during that stretch.

“I was pleased that our guys just competed and fought,” Legans said. “There was a four- or five-minute stretch where I didn’t score a basket, and I don’t like it too much, but I liked it. They just fought and played hard and did the right things and the right things. We just didn’t get a couple echoing there in the second half.

“It shows that we can play with almost anyone in the country, and hang your hat on it.”

Robertson, an All-West Coast Conference selection who was recruited by Cheney from the Legans, scored 13 points for the Pilots on 4-of-12 shooting and had seven assists. Ex-EWU guard Jack Perry had six assists, five points, four rebounds and two steals in the game. Another former Eagle, Mike Prata, did not play in Portland due to a hamstring injury that sidelined him for three games.

The Pilots won a combined 22 games in the three seasons prior to the arrival of Leganes, but in the most recent season they pulled off a 19-15 mark and were predicted by WCC coaches to finish fifth in the conference this year.

“Going into last year, we wanted to emphasize how to compete and change the culture of University of Portland basketball,” Robertson said. “We did and people patted us on the back, but we were never satisfied with our sixth conference.”

Tintile Castro fails

Oregon State, coached by Ferris High School graduate Wayne Tinkle, engineered an upset of its own and went 18 minutes, 36 seconds against No. 8 lead before losing 54-51 at Veterans Memorial Coliseum.

Castro led 45-42 with less than nine minutes remaining, but assistant captain freshman Kyle Filipowski added a 3-pointer and Jeremy Roach kept a jumper as the Blue Devils refused to give up the lead.

Tinkle closed the Warriors’ deficit to one point on multiple occasions, including 52-51 with 16 seconds left, but Duke made two free throws and Jordan Pope missed a power-play tying 3 for the final buzzer beater.


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