AMES, Iowa (AP) It might have been one of the uglier 18-point wins in the long history of Iowa State basketball.
At this time of year, the Cyclones will take them any way they can get them.
Scott Christopherson and Melvin Ejim each scored 17 points and Iowa State pulled away for a 72-54 victory over Texas Tech on Wednesday night, reaching 20 wins for the first time in eight years.
Royce White had 13 points, 10 rebounds and eight assists for the Cyclones (20-8, 10-5 Big 12), who also earned 10 conference victories for the first time since they finished 13-3 in 2001.
Iowa State struggled at times against the Big 12's worst team, though. The Cyclones trailed by four at halftime, let the Red Raiders shoot nearly 46 percent and didn't push their lead into double digits until just under 6 minutes were left.
But Iowa State held the Red Raiders (8-19, 1-14) without a field goal for the final 7:58.
"The whole second half, I really thought we turned up the heat," Iowa State coach Fred Hoiberg said. "You've got to give them credit for responding after that first half."
Jaye Crockett had 17 points for the Red Raiders, who remain winless on the road in the Big 12.
But they scared the heck out of the Cyclones for about 32 minutes.
Iowa State played about as poorly as it has all season in the first half, falling behind 32-28 to a team it had blasted by 24 points last month in Lubbock.
It took less than 2 minutes for the Cyclones to retake the lead though the margin stayed slim for much of the second half.
Ejim gave Iowa State a 35-34 lead with a layup, part of a 10-2 run to open the second half. Texas Tech refused to go away, taking the lead back at 45-44 on a 3-pointer by Javarez Willis. But White kicked off a crucial 9-0 run for the Cyclones with an emphatic dunk to cap a fast break.
Even that failed to shake the pesky Red Raiders, who kept within single digits until Ejim followed a 15-footer with a layup to put Iowa State up 63-52 with 5:38 left.
Despite their struggles, the Cyclones still managed to double up Texas Tech 44-22 in the second half.
"We aren't trying to hang on," Texas Tech coach Billy Gillispie said. "We're trying to win, and we didn't win. We're trying to dominate."
The Red Raiders opened the game on fire, hitting eight of their first 10 shots and five early 3s to jump ahead 21-12 over the seemingly lethargic Cyclones.
Iowa State couldn't even get the easy stuff to go its way. Christopherson, the Big 12's top free throw shooter, missed one of those, and Ejim blew an alley-oop. Still, Christopherson's 3-pointer finally brought the Cyclones back even at 25-25.
"In the beginning of the first half, they were just moving the ball around way too easily," Ejim said. "They were kind of getting whatever they wanted. In the second half, I just think we started getting a little bit smarter, getting more focused."
Ty Nurse scored all 15 of his points in the first half for Texas Tech, which showed impressive resolve after an 83-50 drubbing at Kansas last weekend despite committing 18 turnovers.
"It is frustrating because our team is fighting so hard, and they've become physical enough to win, and they've become tough enough to win and they've become really good defensively," Gillispie said.
Now that the Cyclones have dispatched the lowly Red Raiders, they can focus on a brutal three-game finishing kick.
Iowa State plays Saturday at Kansas State, which it beat in Ames on a buzzer-beater by White on Jan. 31. The Cyclones then travel to No. 3 Missouri and finish March 3 at home against 13th-ranked Baylor, which handed them a 79-64 loss two weeks ago.
Iowa State has put itself in strong position for its first NCAA tournament trip in seven years. But that could all change if the Cyclones play as poorly as they did in stretches against the Red Raiders.
"We've got some work ahead of us," Hoiberg said. "We've got three very difficult games coming up. That's my focus right now."
TEXAS TECH (8-19)
Nurse 6-13 0-0 15, Willis 3-8 0-0 9, Adams 1-3 0-0 3, Lewandowski 2-2 0-1 4, Tolbert 3-7 0-1 6, Petteway 0-1 0-0 0, Crockett 6-10 5-5 17, Lammert 0-2 0-2 0, Nash 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 21-46 5-9 54.
IOWA ST. (20-8)
Babb 0-6 1-2 1, Ejim 7-9 3-4 17, Allen 5-11 0-0 12, Christopherson 5-11 3-4 17, White 5-7 3-9 13, Palo 0-1 0-0 0, Booker 0-0 0-0 0, Gibson 2-4 3-3 7, McGee 1-2 3-4 5. Totals 25-51 16-26 72.
Halftime_Texas Tech 32-28. 3-Point Goals_Texas Tech 7-16 (Nurse 3-5, Willis 3-6, Adams 1-2, Lammert 0-1, Crockett 0-1, Petteway 0-1), Iowa St. 6-19 (Christopherson 4-6, Allen 2-6, Ejim 0-1, Babb 0-6). Fouled Out_None. Rebounds_Texas Tech 25 (Crockett 7), Iowa St. 35 (White 10). Assists_Texas Tech 11 (Nurse 4), Iowa St. 16 (White 8). Total Fouls_Texas Tech 24, Iowa St. 14. A_13,587.