KANSAS CITY, Mo. – Iowa State freshman Talen Horton-Tucker had one of the better games of his young career on Thursday.
He scored 21 points on 8-15 shooting from the field and 5-9 shooting from beyond the arc. He also had four rebounds, three blocks and two assists in Iowa State’s 83-66 win over Baylor in the quarterfinals of the Big 12 tournament.
But maybe the biggest thing he did was match Baylor’s Mark Vital’s toughness. He put a body on him every time a shot went up to help make sure Vital stayed off the offensive glass.
“I felt like I did pretty good today,” Horton-Tucker said. “The last two times, he was a lot more physical than me. That’s another thing, with me being a freshman – I’m not making any excuses – but these guys know what’s going on, I didn’t know what was going on, so matching his intensity this game was progress and really good. I’m really happy I was able to do that.”
He credits his toughness to his upbringing, and he wanted to prove it in the Sprint Center.
“I’m from Chicago,” Horton-Tucker said. “We’re tough.”
His contributions didn’t go unnoticed from his teammates.
“He played great,” senior Nick Weiler-Babb said. “He was one of our X-factors today, no question. He scored the ball, but on the defensive end he was grabbing rebounds, playing tough and getting stops for us.”
Horton-Tucker has been good all season – he was named to the Big 12 All-Freshman Team averaging 12.2 points per game. But he can get himself in trouble sometimes when he dribbles too much. Horton-Tucker tends to end possessions on a low-percentage shot after dribbling around.
On Thursday, he stayed away from difficult step-back shots.
“He’s really good,” Prohm said. “When the floor is spread, he’s tough to handle off the dribble and when he’s being more direct from A to B instead of A, B, C, D, E to get to F. When he goes in a direct line, he’s tough. When he’s making shots, it adds another element to his game.”
On Wednesday, Horton-Tucker said he lived for big stages and on Thursday he proved it, in part thanks to his decisiveness on offense.
“I feel like I was born for big stages,” Horton-Tucker said. “That’s why I got into basketball.”
Horton-Tucker has a chance to prove it over the next couple of days and weeks in the Big 12 and NCAA tournaments.
The No. 5 seeded Cyclones play No. 1 seed Kansas State on Friday at 6 p.m. Iowa State split with Kansas State during the regular season – each team winning on each other’s home court.
“He’s a big-time player,” fellow freshman Tyrese Haliburton said. “And Big-time players make big-time plays in big-time games. That’s just what he does.”