PORTLAND, Ore. – Iowa State (5-0, 0-0 Big 12) took charge in the final five minutes of the showdown against No. 1 North Carolina (5-1, 0-0 ACC) to claim a 70-65 win in the Phil Knight Invitational semi-finals and on to the finals on Sunday night.
Friday’s win at the Veteran’s Memorial Coliseum in the Rose Quarter marked the Cyclones’ third win against the nation’s No. 1 team in program history and joined historic victories over Kansas at the Armory in Ames in 1957 and Oklahoma in 2016 at the Hilton Coliseum on.
The Cyclones will return Central via the Rose District to the Moda Center for the PKI Finals Sunday night at 9 p.m. where they will face off against the winner of the game between No. 18 Alabama and No. 20 UConn, which will be held later Friday night at the VMC.
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ISU bounced back from a foul-filled first half to take a four-point lead over the country No. 1. A 10-0 UNC run put the Cyclones in an eight-point hole with 6:23 to play, but Caleb Grill and Jaren Holmes came on for the Cyclones to put the ISU back in the lead and one of the biggest wins in to end the program history.
Grill led the Cyclones by a career-best 31 points, going 11-of-15 from the field and 7-of-11 from 3-point range. Holmes recovered from early foul problems and ended with 22 points. Robert Jones brought crucial points and energy off the bench to finish on 10 points.
How It Happened Cyclone’s game plan had to be changed early after Osun Osunniyi committed two fouls in the first 90 seconds of the competition. The ISU foul fights continued to pile up as Gabe Kalscheur also caught two fouls in the first seven minutes. Iowa State came up 13-12 on a 3-pointer from Caleb Grill within one, but the Heels fired an 8-0 run in just under two minutes to take a nine lead at 24-15.
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Grill continued to bring the Heat to keep the Cyclones within reach, converting each of his first four 3-point attempts to ensure North Carolina’s advantage stayed in the single digits. The advantages came to the Cyclones via a 9-0 run inside two minutes, topped by a Jaren Holmes-Trey at the top of the key that tied it 30-30.
UNC was able to carve out a two-point lead in the first half, but the Cyclones came out of the dressing room ready, and Robert Jones made some big buckets inside to give ISU ACC Preseason Player of the Year Armando Bacot a one 40-39 lead and the first lead since the first two minutes of the competition. Grill’s fifth three of the game followed the next possession to give Cyclone a four-point lead.
After a slow period of play that saw the two teams score just 12 points in seven minutes, UNC broke out with a 10-0 run to reclaim a 55-47 lead. The Cyclones still had another comeback ahead of them when Grill made his sixth and seventh 3-pointers to play it at 61-61 with 2:25. Grill made it again on the next possession, this time from just inside the strip, to take a 63-61 lead. Holmes made four late free throws to iron it away for the Cyclones and bring home the historic win.
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player of the game
Caleb Grill picked a pretty good day to have the game of his life. The senior recorded a career-high 31 points in 11-of-15 shooting, including a career-high seven 3-point matches. He also added two rebounds, an assist and a block.
The state of Iowa will take on the winner of today’s contest between No. 18 Alabama and No. 20 UConn in the finals of Sunday’s Phil Knight Invitational at the Moda Center. The game begins at 9 p.m. Central on ESPN.