Close win over MVSU and pep talk from Willoughby sparked second-half surge for Cyclones


If there was a turning point in the men’s basketball season, it probably came on the last day of 2011. The Cyclones played Mississippi Valley State, a team that arrived in Ames with one win.

ISU built an 18-point lead despite getting only three minutes from Royce White, who was ill. The Delta Devils rallied and even banked in a three pointer at the buzzer to make the final 67-65.

With the Big 12 season next, followers of the program wondered about the team’s prospects. The Cyclones were 10-3 but had endured an up-and-down non-league schedule.

Prior to the trip to Hilton Coliseum, MVSU’s record was built on road games at Notre Dame, DePaul, North Carolina, South Carolina, Arkansas, Northwestern, Ole Miss, Florida and Wisconsin. Its only win came vs. Tennessee State.

Since that stretch, Mississippi Valley State has won 17 consecutive games in the SWAC. The Delta Devils were, apparently, better than advertised when they played at ISU in December.

Nonetheless, after the win on New Years’ Eve afternoon, another event transpired. Former Cyclone great Dedric Willoughby, a teammate of Fred Hoiberg’s with the Bulls, addressed the Cyclones. In a spirited conversation, Willoughby told the group to start representing his alma mater properly and playing with better effort.

There was likely an overreaction to the narrow win vs. MVSU that day. But, the impact of a former Cyclone talking about playing with a purpose was one of the sparks that has led to good things this winter.

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