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Iowa History Daily: February 14 - Do You Believe in Hilton Magic?

Iowa History Daily: On February 14, 1989, Dick Turnball’s column in the Des Moines Register asked “will the magic of Hilton Coliseum work one more time for Iowa State’s basketball team?” Considered by some the origin of ‘Hilton Magic’ in print, the mythic magic of Hilton made real for opposing teams by the Cyclone forever true long predated the column.

Iowa State broke ground in 1968 on the 14,356 seat arena as a part of the larger Iowa State Center plan conceived in the 1960s. Hilton officially opened to the public on December 2, 1971, when the Cyclone men’s basketball team welcomed the University of Arizona. Although some magic moments took place during the building’s first decade, the  Johnny Orr era took the mystique of Hilton to a new level.

Many fans trace Hilton Magic to the night in February 1983 when Barry Stevens hit an 18-foot jumper at the buzzer to beat tenth-ranked Missouri in overtime. One of the first major wins of the Johnny Orr era, the upset at Hilton Coliseum showed a program on the rise. In 1987, the “Lefester Rhodes Game” contributed to the legend when #17 Iowa State beat #23 Iowa 102-100 in a men’s basketball matchup. The mythic magic continued to grow in 1988 when Johnny Orr’s #14 Iowa State took down #16 Kansas at a raucous Hilton Coliseum. A balanced ISU attack featuring Jeff Grayer overcame a 32 points performance from Danny Manning to ensure a Cyclone victory.

The magic continued after the Orr era with too many memorable moments to list, including the 1992 Cyclone defeat of Oklahoma State in overtime where the building got so loud the floor noticeably shook under the feet of the Cowboys. The magic continued on the January 2004 night when Iowa State walk-on John Neal etched his name into Cyclone lore when he hit two big threes late to help beat Iowa 84-76 at Hilton Coliseum, as well as in the 2004 win when Iowa State took down Texas in 78-77 win which still stands out as one of the loudest games in the building’s history. The magic continues today, spurred on by the energy provided by the Cyclone faithful. #IowaOTD #IowaHistoryDaily #IowaHistoryCalendar


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