Big 12 Championship Finals Primer: No. 1 Houston

Who: No. 7 Iowa State (26-7, 13-5 Big 12) vs. No. 1 Houston (30-3, 15-3 Big 12)

Where: T-Mobile Center (18,500) – Kansas City, Mo.

When: Saturday, March 16, 2024 – 5 p.m.

Tipping Off: For the sixth time in program history – and fifth time in the last ten years – Iowa State will play in the Phillips 66 Big 12 Championship Game. The Cyclones are 5-0 all-time in Big 12 title games.

With wins on Thursday and Friday night, Iowa State has earned the third-most wins in a single season in program history. Just the 1999-00 (32) and 2013-14 (28) teams have claimed more single season wins in a Cyclone uniform.

Iowa State’s opponent in the championship game – Houston – is the top-ranked team in the country and has won 11 straight contests with its last loss coming on Feb. 3 at Kansas. The Coogs are ranked as the consensus number one team according to KenPom, ESPN’s BPI and the NET.

The two teams met twice this season, with the home team taking each game. The Cyclones handed Houston its first loss of the season back in January, while the Cougars returned the favor, downing Iowa State in Space City on Feb. 19.

Not only is tonight’s game a rubber match for the season series, but the Cyclones and Cougars are tied at four wins apiece in their eight other meetings. This will be just the second neutral site meeting between the two teams, with Houston owning a 1-0 record in neutral contests as it beat ISU in Charlotte in 1990.


  • UNLV transfer Keshon Gilbert, a St. Louis native, averages a team-best 13.7 points per game and really hit his stride in the latter half of the season.

    • Gilbert recorded a triple-double against New Hampshire earlier this season, going for 10 points, 11 assists and 10 rebounds.

      • His triple-double – the eighth in school history – puts him with Lipsey, Haliburton, Monté Morris, Royce White, Jamaal Tinsley, Curtis Stinson and Marc Urquhart as members of the illustrious club.

    • Gilbert is first in the Big 12 in free throws attempted (187) and second in FT made (136).

      • He is second on the team in assists (142) and steals (63).

    • Gilbert has two Big 12 Newcomer of the Week awards to his name this season.
    • He’s recorded a team-best eight 20-plus point outings.

  • Tamin Lipsey has been his usual stat-stuffer self for the Cyclones so far this year, as the Ames native is averaging 12.4 points per game to go along with team-highs in assists (155) and steals (87).

    • Lipsey leads all Big 12 players in steals and steals per game.

      • He is fifth and fourth respectively, nationally, in those categories.

    • Lipsey set the school record for steals against PVAMU, picking the Panthers’ pockets eight times.

      • The previous record, seven, was held by Fred Hoiberg and Justus Thigpen.
      • He has recorded a steal in all but two games in his career.

    • Against DePaul, Lipsey recorded the seventh triple-double in school history, going for 15 points, 10 assists and 10 rebounds.

      • Lipsey became the first Cyclone since Tyrese Haliburton in 2020 to record a triple-double.

  • Iowa State freshman Milan Momcilovic has been a constant during his rookie campaign, as the first-year from Pewaukee is averaging 10.8 points per game – the third-most on the team.

    • He is one of five Cyclones to score at least 20 in a game this season.
    • Momcilovic is averaging the most points per game by an ISU true freshman since Lindell Wigginton’s 16.7 in 2017-18.

      • He is the third highest-scoring true freshman in the Big 12, behind Baylor’s Ja’Kobe Walter and Yves Missi.

  • Curtis Jones has been stellar off the bench in the back half of the season, establishing himself as the team’s sixth man and one of the best in the conference.

    • Jones is the only ISU player since 2012 to score in double-figures in 13-straight games off the bench.
    • He had seven steals at TCU earlier this season in his lone start, tying him for the second-most steals in a single game in Iowa State history.

      • It’s the first time ever that two Cyclones recorded games with seven-plus steals in a single season.

  • Robert Jones leads the team in offensive rebounds (78) and blocks (31).

    • Jones tied a season-high with 18 points against K-State in the quarterfinals on Thursday evening.

  • Tre King leads the team in rebounds, as the senior out of Lexington, Ky., averages 5.1 per game and has a total of 169 boards.
  • Hason Ward, C. Jones, Jackson Paveletzke, Demarion Watson and Omaha Biliew make up the bench unit for the Cyclones.
  • Iowa State forces the second-most turnovers per game (17.70) in the country – tops in the Big 12.        

    • The Cyclones average 10.5 steals per game, also tops in the Big 12 and second in the country.

  • As a head coach, Otz is 166-97 overall and has led the Cyclones to a 67-34 record over the last three seasons.

From the Notes:

  • The Cyclones are the No. 2 seed in the tournament … this is the second time the Cyclones have been this seed, owning a 5-0 record in these games … ISU was also the No. 2 seed in 2015, as the Cyclones went 3-0 to win their second-straight Big 12 Championship.
  • Iowa State has won 18-straight games at Hilton Coliseum, the fifth longest active home winning streak in the country.

    • ISU, McNeese and Samford are the only undefeated teams in the country at home with at least 18 wins.

  • Iowa State has won 15 of its last 21 games at the tournament, winning the title in four of the last nine completed tournaments.
  • Iowa State ranks second in the nation in turnover percentage at 25.9 percent. ISU has been in the top six in the country in each of Otzelberger’s seasons, ranking sixth in 2022 (24.6%) and second in 2023 (25%).
  • Iowa State is one of four schools in the country, and the only Power Six school, to force 25 or more turnovers in multiple games against NCAA Division I opponents this season.
  • Tamin Lipsey and Keshon Gilbert each have triple-doubles to their names this season – making ISU the only team in the country with multiple players boasting a triple-double.

    • There are now eight in school history.

  • Only six players in the country are averaging at least 12.4 points, 4.5 rebounds, 4.3 assists and 1.9 steals per game this season. Two of them reside in the Cyclone backcourt in Tamin Lipsey and Keshon Gilbert, with ISU being the only school in the nation with multiple players hitting those marks.
  • Lipsey had a school-record steal streak of 34-straight games snapped this season. It was the second longest streak in the country. He has a steal in 63 of the 65 games he has played.
  • The Cyclones are 29-1 under T.J. Otzelberger when four or more players score in double figures.
  • The six highest-scoring Cyclone outputs under Otzelberger have all come this season, including a pair of 100-point performances. Nine of the 10 highest under Otz have also come this season.
  • Otzelberger was named a semifinalist for the Naismith Coach of the Year. There are 10 semifinalists for the award. Last year Otzelberger made it on to the late season watch list of 15.
  • The Cyclones have scored 90 or more points six times this season. It is the most times hitting that mark in a season since the 2016-17 team did so eight times.
  • As of this morning, the Cyclones are ranked No. 8 in the NET. The Cyclones slot in at No. 9 in the KenPom rankings and are No. 7 in ESPN’s Basketball Power Index.

Switching Sides:

  • In its first year as a Big 12 institution, Houston won the outright Big 12 regular season title, earning two more conference wins than the second-place Cyclones.

    • Houston was picked to finish second in the preseason poll behind Kansas, earning two first-place votes in its inaugural Big 12 basketball campaign.

  • The Coogs will compete in their conference title game for the sixth consecutive season, having been in five-straight American Conference title bouts prior to their first in the Big 12.
  • Since 2017-18, the Cougars are the nation’s second-winningest team with a 205-37 record. Only Gonzaga (211-29) has a higher standard over that time.
  • The Cougars own the nation’s longest active streak with 83 consecutive weeks in the AP Top 25.
  • Jamal Shead, an Honorable Mention Preseason All-Big 12 Team member, earned Big12 Player of the Year as well as Defensive Player of the Year this past week.

    • He becomes the first player in Big 12 history to earn both in the same season.
    • Prior to this year, Shead was the 2022-23 American Conference Defensive Player of the Year.

  • Houston has nine returners from last season, three freshmen and two first-year transfers on the roster.
  • Analytics love the Cougars, as they are ranked No. 1 across the board in the NET, KenPom and ESPN’s Basketball Power Index.
  • Houston head coach Kelvin Sampson is in his tenth season at the helm of the Houston basketball program. Having 35 years of experience as a head coach, Sampson and the Cougars are 262-77 during his tenure and he holds a 762-347 overall record. His son, Kellen, is an assistant on staff.

    • Sampson and the Cougars have gone to the last five NCAA Tournaments, making four visits to the Sweet 16, two Elite Eight berths and one trip to the Final Four (2021).

First appeared on

Leave a Comment