PORTLAND, Oregon – Iowa State (5-0, 0-0 Big 12) took command of the last five minutes of its showdown with No. 1 North Carolina (5-1, 0-0 ACC) to pick up a 70-65 win in the Phil Knight Invitational semifinals and advance to Sunday night’s final.
Friday’s victory at Veteran’s Memorial Coliseum in the Rose Quarter was the Cyclones’ third win over the No. 1 team in the country in program history, joining the historic wins over Kansas at the Armory in Ames in 1957 and Oklahoma in 2016 at Hilton Coliseum.
The Cyclones will go back across the Rose Quarter to the Moda Center for the PKI Final on Sunday night at 9 p.m. Central, where they will take on the winner of the game between No. 18 Alabama and No. 20 UConn that will take place later Friday night at the VMC.
ISU rallied from a foul-filled first half to take a four-point lead over the No. 1 team in the country. A 10-0 UNC run put the Cyclones in an eight-point hole with 6:23 to play, but Caleb Grill and Jaren Holmes stepped up for the Cyclones to put ISU back ahead and finish off one of the biggest wins in program history.
Grill guided the Cyclones with a career-best 31 points, going 11-of-15 from the field and 7-of-11 from 3-point range, Holmes bounced back from early foul trouble to finish with 22 points. Robert Jones brought crucial points and energy off the bench to finish with 10 points.
How It Happened
The Cyclone game plan had to change up early after Osun Osunniyi picked up two fouls in the first 90 seconds of the contest. The ISU foul struggles continued to stack up, as Gabe Kalscheur also picked up two fouls in the first seven minutes. Iowa State got within one at 13-12 on a Caleb Grill 3-pointer, but the Heels fired off an 8-0 run in just under two minutes to move ahead nine at 24-15.
Grill continued to bring the heat to keep the Cyclones within reach, converting each of his first four 3-point attempts to ensure the North Carolina advantage stayed in single figures. The benefits came to the Cyclones across a 9-0 run within a two-minute stretch, capped by a Jaren Holmes trey at the top of the key that tied it at 30-30.
UNC was able to grind out a two-point first-half lead, but the Cyclones came out of the locker room ready to go, with Robert Jones making a couple of big buckets inside on ACC Preseason Player of the Year Armando Bacot to give ISU a 40-39 lead and its first lead since the first two minutes of the contest. Grill’s fifth trey of the game followed the next possession to make it a four-point Cyclone lead.
After a slow period of play that saw just a combined 12 points over seven minutes from the two teams, UNC broke out with a 10-0 run to retake a 55-47 lead. The Cyclones had another fightback left in them, as Grill made his sixth and seventh 3-pointers to knit it at 61-61 with 2:25 to play. Grill did it again the next possession, this time from just inside the stripe to move ahead 63-61. Holmes made four late free throws to ice it away for the Cyclones and bring home the historic victory.
Player of the Game
Caleb Grill picked quite the day to have the game of his life. The senior recorded a career-high 31 points on 11-of-15 shooting, including a career-high-matching seven 3-pointers. He also added two rebound, an assist and a block.
Iowa State will play in Sunday’s Phil Knight Invitational final at the Moda Center against No. 20 UConn. The game will start at 9 p.m. Central on ESPN.