On Campus With Brent Blum

Blum discusses the history of Cyclone basketball in Hawaii. Could this be the turning point in Iowa State's season? Check out what Blum thinks.

The island of Hawaii has been very friendly to the Cyclone men's basketball team. It's no wonder why Wayne Morgan wanted to take his team down to the warm waters. If Boise is the evil-nemesis of Cyclone basketball, Hawaii is the Batman. By the way, I saw Tim Burton's "Batman" for first time last week, and Jack Nicholson is still giving me the shakes. I will never look at a deck of cards the same way. That dude was nuts.


Is he the best villain of all time? You have this role, and the "Shining," "A Few Good Men," plus "About Schmidt," which was frightful for a whole different reason besides Jack. (Kathy Bates) I'm going with Nicholson as the Joker or Shooter McGavin in "Happy Gilmore" as the best villain of all-time. However, I am open to suggestions. But, back to the warm isles of Hawaii.


In their last six games down in the state June Jones has conquered, the Cyclone ballers are 5-1. Although, they haven't played in Hawaii since 2001 the fellas, much like their meteorological compliments, fire up in the warmth of the Pacific.


Back in 1999, Iowa State was reeling…big-time. The Cyclones had just begun the season after finishing 1998 with a .500 record, under second year coach Larry Eustachy. Fans were expecting more of the same average play and wondered aloud about another long year. The Cyclones made the long plane ride to Hawaii after dropping their opener at Drake 48-44. The Cyclone faithful were wondering if their flashy new point guard from New York City would be serviceable, after he went 1 of 11 from the field and turned the ball over five times in the loss to Drake. Visions of previous guard experiments, Lee Love, Rodney Hampton and Paris Corner, burned into their brains. His new slightly-rotund running mate didn't ease fears either, as he was 2 of 13 shooting and had 5 turnovers himself. Little did Clone fans know, Jamaal Tinsley and Kantrail Horton would be just fine.


The storm started brewing that season in Hilo, Hawaii. The Hawaii-Hilo Vulcans were tied with the Cyclones eight minutes into the first half, but ISU put the proverbial pedal down and left them and three years of below-average Cyclone basketball in the dust. Led by Marcus Fizer's 23 points and Tinsley's 7 assists, the Cyclones cruised to a 108-72 win. It would be the start of something special.


The next game ISU was a big underdog to a ranked Arkansas Razorback squad. The Cyclones hit 7 of 8 threes and Kantrail Horton had 18 points to lead ISU to a 77-71 win and advance to the final against #1 ranked Cincinnati and Kenyon Martin. The Clone scraped and clawed against the Bearcats, pulling to within 5 points with two minutes to play, but the Bearcats came out on top winning 75-60. Fizer matched Martin blow-for-blow scoring 23 points, in what would be ISU's last loss in the next 14 games, and one of only four losses in the next 45 games, a streak that may never be matched again.


The next year, ISU returned to Hawaii for the Yahoo Sports Invitational after getting trounced at Iowa. Seniors Jamaal Tinsley, Kantrail Horton, Martin Rancik, and Paul Shirley were assisted by newcomer Jake Sullivan to give ISU the title. Even freshmen Andrew Skoglund and Zach Fortune played big minutes in the three wins. Tinsley was named MVP after wins over Troy State, BYU, and Mississippi. Fortune hit two huge 3's and scored 10 points against BYU to carry ISU. Sadly, not much more was heard from Fortune. He had a falling out with Eustachy and he transferred to South Dakota following that year. Tragically, he was killed in an auto accident in 2003. But, his three games in Hawaii should be remembered by all Cyclone fans.


Hawaii has a warm place in Iowa State basketball history and was the turning point for both of those historic seasons. Maybe there is something special in the waters of the Pacific, favorable to the development of Cyclones. Here's hoping this year will be no different.  

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