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Basketball

Preview: Iowa State vs. Kansas

By Chris Williams, CycloneFanatic.com PublisherFollow Chris on Twitter @ChrisMWilliams

What: Iowa State (14-6, 4-3) vs. No. 5 Kansas (17-3, 7-0)
When: Saturday, Jan. 28 at 1 p.m.
Where: Hilton Coliseum in Ames
TV: ESPN (Mark Jones and Fran Fraschilla)

Once upon a time, a jacked up Iowa State men’s basketball team traveled to the unfriendly confines of Allen Fieldhouse and managed to rack up a 12-point second half lead over the salty Jayhawks from the University of Kansas. This all went down back on Jan. 14, when the Cyclones disappeared for around five minutes in the second half (in a 17-2 Kansas run) and managed to lose the contest by an 82-73 final.

Runs like this happen all of the time when you enter the "Phog," but the Cyclones still feel like they let that one slip away.

“I thought that it was a game that we should have won," said Iowa State head coach Fred Hoiberg before Thursday’s practice. "It’s a great team, a big time team. We got up 12 on them in the second half and we got away from what we did to get us that lead. We need to go back to what we saw that got us that lead and try to stick to those things that made us successful.”

Round two will take place on Saturday in Ames. It’s redemption time for the Cyclones.

No. 5 Kansas will enter a sold out Hilton Coliseum with a 7-0 mark in the Big 12.

Do the 4-3 Cyclones have what it takes to pull off a signature victory? Let’s break it down.

BREAKING DOWN THE CYCLONES

Iowa State enters this contest coming off of a 62-55 loss at Texas on Tuesday. The loss was especially aggravating  because for the most part, the Cyclones did what they needed to do to win. Iowa State did everything right, other than the most important part of basketball. Making shots. Iowa State went 5-for-21 from 3-point range and shot 33 percent from the field in the loss.

"The frustrating thing about the Texas thing is that we did our job on the key guy," said Hoiberg.
"We executed our game plan from that standpoint but didn’t execute on the other end of the floor.”

Cyclone fans have junior Chris Babb to thank for that. Babb, who is Iowa State’s ace defender, held Texas’ J’Covan Brown to a 3-for-16 shooting performance. Babb played 38 minutes in the loss.

"Chris doesn’t ever get tired," said Hoiberg. "We need him on the floor."

The last time that the Cyclones and the Jayhawks met, Babb again did his job. He was assigned to Kansas’ Travis Releford, who went 3-for-9 and scored only seven points. The problem on that day for the Cyclones was Kansas senior Tyshawn Taylor, who went off for a career-high 28 points.

“He’s on a tear right now and is playing as well as anyone in our league," said Hoiberg of Taylor. "We’re going to have to do a much better job with our pick and roll situations. We lost our mind a little bit in that second half during that one stretch where they made a big run on us. A lot of that was Taylor coming off of screen and roll action.”

Taylor has scored more than 15 points in each of his last five games. So will Hoiberg choose to put Babb on Kansas’ hot man?

I assume that we’ll see Babb do a little bit of everything on Saturday.

It makes since for Babb to stay on Releford though, who has averaged 12.3 points per game in Big 12 play and here’s why. Babb’s 6-foot-5, 225 pound frame matches up nicely with Releford, who is 6-foot-6. If Iowa State chooses to match Babb up with Taylor, it could potentially create a matchup problem in the frontcourt. Melvin Ejim is the only other starter who could guard Releford, assuming that Hoiberg would like to keep two undersized guards Scott Christopherson and Chris Allen away from that scenario.

If you go the Ejim route, that leaves Royce White to match up with All-American Thomas Robinson and leave literally nobody to guard KU’s surging 7-footer, Jeff Withey.

Being that the Cyclones cannot afford to have White get into foul trouble early, chances are we’ll see Iowa State do much of the same in defense of the loaded Jayhawks with a few tweaks here and there.

Iowa State’s probable starters:

G: Chris Allen, 6-3 Sr. – 12.1 PPG, 2.6 APG
G: Scott Christopherson, 6-3 Sr. – 10.7 PPG, 2.9 RPG
G: Chris Babb, 6-5 Jr. 9.3 PPG, 4.5 RPG
F: Melvin Ejim, 6–6 So. 8.1 PPG, 6.0 RPG
F: Royce White, 6-8 So. 13.4 PPG, 9.6 RPG

Kansas’ probable starters:

G: Elijah Johnson, 6-4 Jr. – 9.2 PPG, 3.6 APG
G: Tyshawn Taylor, 6-3 Sr. – 16.6 PPG, 5.0 APG
F: Travis Releford, 6-6 Jr. – 9.7 PPG, 4.3 RPG
F: Thomas Robinson, 6-10 Jr. – 17.8 PPG, 12.0 RPG
C: Jeff Withey, 7-0 Jr. – 8.1 PPG, 6.1 RPG

BREAKING DOWN THE JAYHAWKS

Kansas jumped to 7-0 in Big 12 play for the third time in the Bill Self era on Monday night with a somewhat sluggish 64-54 home win over Texas A&M on Monday. The depleted Aggies actually led the Jayhawks by two at the half.

Since the first time these two teams met two weeks ago, Kansas has racked up wins over Baylor, Texas and the Aggies.

Jayhawk to watch: One guy who has emerged during this stretch is Jeff Withey, the 7-foot center who has scored in double figures in his last four games. Withey went 6-for-10 with 13 points and 11 rebounds against the Cyclones on Jan. 14.

Oh yeah. Thomas Robinson is pretty good too. Robinson is the only player in the Big 12 who is currently averaging a double-double, at 17.8 points and 12.0 rebounds per game.

Key to a Cyclone victory: Somehow, some way, Iowa State out-rebounded Kansas 46-38 the first time these two teams tangled. If the Cyclones manage to do that again on Saturday, I like Iowa State’s chances.

The biggest key though? In round one, Kansas’ assist/turnover ratio was 20-7. Iowa State’s was 10-16.

The Jayhawks got easier looks in that basketball game and the Cyclones didn’t always take the best shots. Along with the rebounding, the assist/turnover ratio from both teams CANNOT mimic what we saw in Lawrence. If that happens, it will be a long day for the Cyclones.

And last but certainly not least, Iowa State just needs to make some shots! If the Cyclones hit 10 or more threes, they’ll be in this thing till the end. If the Cyclones shoot 33 percent from the floor like they did on Tuesday against Texas, they have no chance.

PREDICTION

If you read our Friday Debate column here at CF or listened to last night’s radio program, this shouldn’t surprise you.

I think that Iowa State is going to win this basketball game and it has as much to do with the Jayhawks as anything. Kansas is 7-0 and due for a loss. The Jayhawks are an elite team, no doubt. But they aren’t a dominant Kansas team that we’ve seen in the past. After two close wins against Texas and Texas A&M, the Cyclones will surge and win the biggest game of Fred Hoiberg’s young coaching career.

THE PICK

Iowa State 76, Kansas 71

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