Breaking down Iowa State’s historically bad shooting in March Madness loss to Pitt: Rim issue not the culprit


Iowa State put together a historic performance against Pitt in the 2023 NCAA Tournament on Friday — but not in the way coach T.J. Otzelberger would have hoped.

The Cyclones turned in one of the worst all-time March Madness shooting efforts in their 59-41 first-round loss to a Panthers team that needed to beat 11-seed Mississippi State in the First Four just to make this stage of the NCAA Tournament.

“For us, we’re a team that is fueled by our defense and felt like early, we didn’t dictate and disrupt quite as well as we needed to to get our natural rhythm going,” Otzelberger said. “I feel like our guys were working really hard to get great opportunities and their effort was good.

“But Pitt had a sound plan. They were playing personnel really heavy, and it worked for them here today. Credit to their defense, and we just didn’t see it go through the hoop enough.”

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It seemed in the first half that the culprit for Iowa State’s poor shooting might have been a crooked rim. Tournament officials came onto the floor to work on one of the baskets in pregame. Because of this, Iowa State was not allowed to warm up, while Pitt was.

The Cyclones missed their first 11 field goal attempts and only made 2 of their first 19 shots at the basket. They didn’t make their first bucket — a Jaren Holmes layup — until 9:54 remained in the first half, at which point Pitt led 22-4.

Kyle Tucker of The Athletic captured officials working on the basket ahead of the game, adding that it would be understandable if Otzelberger would be angry at what unfolded in Greensboro Coliseum:

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The NCAA later said in a statement (per Nicole Auerbach of The Athletic) that the adjustment was made at the request of Iowa State. The NCAA claimed to have offered Iowa State time to warm up, but the Cyclones declined.

Otzelberger said after the game that he didn’t know whether the rim adjustment affected his players.

“Yeah, I don’t know. I can’t speak for our guys. I wasn’t sure what all happened. By the time they came back they were checking it and obviously there was a delay,” he said. “I like to think our guys have enough mental toughness — we’ve been in a lot of big games and tough environments that that wouldn’t affect us — but I can’t speak for them exactly on that and how it affected them mentally.”

Trey King, who finished the game with 11 points on 2-of-5 shooting, said it “definitely wasn’t a factor.”

“We paid it no mind,” he said.

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Iowa State finished the first half 9 for 31 from the field and went into halftime with a manageable 30-23 deficit. Switching ends for the second half did little to help the Cyclones, though: They again started the half 2 of 19 from the field.

Pitt didn’t have a good shooting day either, finishing at 34.1 percent from the field. But that was all the Panthers needed when compared to Iowa State, which ended 14 for 60 for a dismal 23.3 percent — among the worst in NCAA Tournament history.

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Gabe Kalscheur, who had 12 points on 4-of-14 shooting, said the team worked hard to maintain its mechanics amid the scoring drought.

“When the ball’s not going in, we work on these shots and we stay true to who we are with mechanics and confidence,” Kalscheur said. “So that’s not a factor as to why the ball wasn’t going in.

“It just wasn’t going in. Sometimes that happens, and you’ve just got to eat the punches. Kind of wish we had that back and wish our offense was going smoothly.”