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Coach angered by ‘ludicrous rumors’ team spied on opponent huddles

AMES, Iowa – T.J. Otzelberger was adamant after Wednesday night’s win over Kansas State that he would not discuss whatever prompted a pair of contentious interactions between him and Wildcats coach Jerome Tang. 

That, apparently, changed, after allegations of Iowa State spying on Kansas State’s timeout huddles were reported by the Kansas City Star. 

The Iowa State men’s basketball coach lambasted Kansas State and those contentions in his postgame press conference following the Cyclones’ 79-75 win against No. 8 Kansas. 

‘It’s incredibly disappointing that after such an awesome game, an awesome environment and atmosphere, that I even have to begin by addressing something that happened earlier this week,’ Otzelberger said. ‘The ludicrous rumors earlier this week that somehow we were trying to gain an advantage looking into our opponent’s huddles is an affront to our players, our fans and to me.

‘It’s not who I am. It’s not what our program is about, and I’m angry that someone would even make that suggestion.’

The situation spilled into public view at the under-8 timeout in the second half of the Cyclones’ win Wednesday when Tang was seen gesturing to the crowd behind the Wildcat bench and subsequently crossed halfcourt to have an animated discussion with Otzelberger. In the usual postgame handshake line, Tang continued to harangue Otzelberger. 

Neither coach would publicly address the situation with the press after the game. 

“I know you saw what you saw,” Tang said, “but I’m not going to talk about it.” 

Said Otzelberger: “There’s a point and time where things are said between coaches that needs to stay that way.” 

Thursday night, though, the Kansas City Star reported that the issue was Kansas State’s concern that Iowa State had “placed managers and/or other team representatives in spots behind the visiting bench where they could view, and possibly record, the Wildcats as they huddled up during timeouts,” citing anonymous sources. 

Kansas State, through a spokesperson, declined to comment on the allegations in an email to The Des Moines Register before Saturday’s game. 

Otzelberger passionately disputed those allegations while also making one of his own about the Kansas State coaching staff’s conduct toward the Cyclones’ student managers.

‘What is factual is that one of their staff members cursed out one of our student managers who was mopping the floor under the basket,’ Otzelberger said. ‘So let’s put this to bed here and now. It didn’t happen. It won’t happen.

‘And others need to be much more careful with their words moving forward.’ 

The Big 12 did not respond to an email from The Register inquiring as to whether the league had received any formal complaints or would investigate the claims. 

If the allegations were a distraction at all for Iowa State and its players, it did not show up in their win over the Jayhawks.

‘It’s just noise,’ senior Tre King said after scoring a game-high 21 points against Kansas. ‘We don’t let that stuff affect us.

‘When you live in truth, people can say what they want to say. We know what we do. We know what we do well. At the end of the day, our habits and our character take over. Games like this are the culmination of that.’

Certainly, the situation will make the regular-season finale March 9 between Iowa State and Kansas State in Manhattan an especially anticipated affair, beyond even the NCAA Tournament and Big 12 standing stakes that game could very well have.  

‘I wanted to make sure when we addressed it, we were speaking in facts,’ Otzelberger said, ‘and that’s why we handled it in the matter we did today when we had the facts after everything had transpired.’

Travis Hines covers Iowa State University sports for the Des Moines Register and Ames Tribune. Contact him at thines@amestrib.com or  (515) 284-8000. Follow him on X at @TravisHines21.

This post appeared first on USA TODAY

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