LAWRENCE, Kan. — If the beginning of Wednesday night’s battle between Iowa State and Kansas was major freeway, Bill Self’s Kansas Jayhawks were comfortably cruising in a tricked out, cherry-red Lamborghini at a smooth 80 miles per hour. For the first five minutes of each period at least, Iowa State appeared to be puffing along in a pea-green Buick LeSabre.
Not surprisingly, the Lamborghini won this race by a 92-81 final.
Iowa State trailed Kansas by 16 (30-14) with 10:42 to play in the first half. The Cyclones then got some stops and went on a 3-point barrage to bring the game within three at the half. After a DeAndre Kane three to open up the second period, the Jayhawks responded by going on an 11-0 run of their own. Just like that, after clawing their way back into the game, the Cyclones were down by 13 with 14:31 to play.
“I have been in this building enough as a player, as a coach, as a scout, it happens pretty much every game where they come out and hit their shots early,” Fred Hoiberg said. “You have to withstand it. You have to withstand those runs. You have to give them a lot of credit. They do such a good job of jumping on you.”
To Iowa State’s credit, the undersized Cyclones most certainly took KU’s early punches and lived to see another day. Iowa State once again fought back and trailed the sixth-ranked Jayhawks by a single point with 4:30 on the clock.
But because of the slow starts, Iowa State found itself in a constant uphill, 40-minute climb. For a good team like Iowa State, that’s doable against other good teams like Boise State and Akron on a neutral floor. Heck, Iowa State was tough enough to survive these types of spurts at home against superb teams in Iowa and Michigan. But sleepwalking through the first five minutes of every half is an awful idea in the league play, when even less talented teams are aware of the skeletons in your closet.
Starts like that, especially in both halves, are a death sentence in Allen Fieldhouse.
“We were missing shots and they were making shots,” DeAndre Kane said. “It wasn’t really anything we were doing wrong. I think defensively we were in the right spots but they were making shots.”
Kane’s analysis is probably fairly spot on. Afterwards, even Kansas coach Bill Self discussed how his team isn’t a great 3-point shooting squad. The Jayhawks went 10-for-22 from long range and at that pace, they very well might be unbeatable at home.
Regardless of reasoning, the slow starts have become an unfortunate trend for the Cyclones. You can almost expect it from this team on a nightly basis. Iowa State is a good basketball team, but the Cyclones aren’t good enough to consistently overcome double-digit deficits, especially on the road, especially in league play.
Iowa State learned this lesson once again on Wednesday night while Kansas did exactly what great, national title contending teams should do – dominate on its home floor.
Very few teams in the sport can battle back the way that Iowa State did down 16 with 10 to play in the first half inside of Allen Fieldhouse and to that, give the Cyclones acclaim.
“We just stayed poised,” Kane said. “We battled back and that’s what championship teams do. They fight. I am proud of my team. We fought all 40 minutes but we came up short.”
Unlike the game just over two weeks ago in Ames, Iowa State actually made shots. Georges Niang was fantastic. The crafty sophomore went 10-of-17 from the floor and led Iowa State with 24 points. Kane had 22 points while Melvin Ejim had 18 and eight.
“You can’t panic and we didn’t,” Hoiberg said. “I give our guys credit for climbing back into the game and cutting that thing down to one late. You know, they came out in the second half and hit shots. We had good looks. Very good looks that we hit especially the last 15 minutes of the first half that we just didn’t knock down. They were coming out and hitting threes. We wanted to come out and protect the paint and they obviously had a huge size advantage on us.”
How good is KU?
The Big 12 is arguably the best league in college basketball. Kansas is indisputably the best team in the Big 12. So can Kansas do the unthinkable and run the table in this gauntlet of a league?
“Sure. I think so,” Hoiberg said. “If they are hitting shots like that guys, that is going to be a tough, tough team. With Wiggins out there hitting threes, Selden hits a couple. Frank Mason hit a huge three late.”
If they play like that, they are still in the league race for sure if they keep playing like that.”
No more Wiggins?: That might have been the last time (maybe) that Andrew Wiggins ever plays against Iowa State. For that, Hoiberg’s program should be thankful. The highly touted freshman who could very well be the No. 1 pick in this summer’s NBA Draft scored a career-high 29 points. This comes after a 17 and 19 performance in Ames two weeks ago.
Hoiberg on the flagrant: Iowa State’s Dustin Hogue was called for a controversial flagrant foul late in the game that spurred all sorts of heated conversation on Twitter. Fred Hoiberg commented on the call after the game.
“That looked to me like Dustin was trying to prevent the layup,” Hoiberg said. “I didn’t get an opportunity to see the replay of it but it was a big play. It goes from three to seven in the last three minutes and I think we missed an open look the last time down and they got it up to double digits. It’s a big play. I’m not going to say anything bad. I thought Dustin was trying to make a play on the ball. Again, I’ll have to look at it on film to see if he wasn’t going after the ball. I thought Dustin was just trying to prevent a layup.”
Monte Morris: Iowa State’s freshman point guard played 35 minutes in the loss. Morris, who collected three steals, did not commit a turnover.
“Just poise and always being in the right spot and handling the pressure,” Hoiberg said of his game. “Another game without a turnover. In seven games, he’s had one game where he had a turnover. He tripped and fell into a guy and they called a push. That was the turnover that he had. He is just so poised for a freshman out there. I thought we had to have him out there.”
The difference: Georges Niang on the difference between this game and the first time these two teams played…
“We did everything better here than when we played back home. We had a bad shooting night, they caught us on a bad night. Tonight, we shot the ball pretty well. We got back to playing like we do.”
Up next: Iowa State will host No. 23 Oklahoma on Saturday at 3 p.m.