AMES — Kansas star Wayne Selden flashed a look of disbelief, then worked his elbows like worn hinges as if to say, “No good.”
Iowa State point guard Monté Morris had just powered past him and finished at the rim, delivering the final blow in a Big Monday beatdown. Selden didn’t argue the call. But the basket — sorry, Wayne — counted, too.
“The and one,” said Morris knowingly, who swished the ensuing free throw with 2:56 left to fully cement the No. 14 Cyclones’ 85-72 thumping of the fourth-ranked Jayhawks. "I just tried to turn the corner. Late shot clock and Georges (Niang) kind of screened his man and they were like, ‘Get under,’ but he never got under, so I just went to the basket.”
And Hilton Coliseum absolutely roared. Another sellout crowd of 14,384 reveled in a second straight Big Monday win. This time the Jayhawks (16-4, 5-3) fell victim to the red-hot Cyclones (16-4, 5-3), who pushed their winning streak to four games.
Morris finished with 21 points, nine assists, four rebounds, and zero turnovers.
“(He) was the best player in the game,” said Kansas coach Bill Self, whose team lost its third straight Big 12 road game for the first time since the 2004-05 season. “He dominated. Dominated.”
Early on, the Jayhawks appeared destined to beat ISU for just the second time in the past five meetings.
Kansas gouged the Cyclones’ defense inside and out, leading by as many as 10 points and shooting 58 percent while building a 43-36 halftime advantage.
What changed at halftime?
ISU’s Matt Thomas said his team “locked in” on the defensive end. It showed on the floor and on the stat sheet. Kansas shot just 40 percent for the field after the break and fell behind for good when ISU unleashed a 11-0 run that turned a 57-55 deficit into a 66-57 edge with 7:08 left.
The crowd noise crescendoed. Self tried taking two timeouts to stem the onslaught, but to no avail.
“In the second half, once we knotted it up and took the lead and the crowd was involved, I knew it was over,” said Thomas, who tied Abdel Nader with a game-high four steals while burying three clutch 3-pointers.
“That’s just how it happens at Hilton,” said Thomas, whose 3-ball with 11:52 left pulled ISU into its first tie since 0-0. “When we get our fans into the game, it’s really tough to play in. They got tense, I felt, and started missing shots.”
They also failed to get them up. During the decisive run, ISU forced four straight steals — from Nader, then Thomas (who scored 13 points), then Morris and Nader (17 points) again.
Niang, who scored 15 of his 19 points in the second half, sparked the run with a hook shot. Deonte Burton gave the Cyclones their first lead, at 60-57, 27 seconds later, swishing a 3-pointer off a Morris dish.
Rock. Chalk. Boom.
“We challenged them and I think they challenged one another defensively (at halftime),” ISU coach Steve Prohm said. “Bottom line, is you’ve got to ball screen defend, you’ve got to show. Monté’s got to get that ball pressure, get in front. We did a great job, I thought, of walling up and being able to finish plays and make them take tough shots.”
Morris made his share of tough ones. He sank 7 of 14 overall and 2 of 4 from long range and is now averaging 19.3 points over his last six games. His field goal percentage during this ongoing span?
A torrid 60.3 percent.
“It’s a tough job being a point guard,” Prohm said. “I’m going to be on them a lot. They’ve got to guard at the point of the ball screen and they’ve got to run offense. We want him to score and distribute and he’s done that. He’s a special kid.”
Niang, an All-American, pretty much said the same thing.
“Plain and simple, that guy over there,” he said, motioning toward Morris. “We go how he goes, man. That guy has carried us this whole season and I couldn’t be happier for the kid. He’s just doing a great job for us.”