Jan 9, 2018; Lawrence, KS, USA; Iowa State Cyclones guard Lindell Wigginton (5) drives to the basket as Kansas Jayhawks guard Devonte’ Graham (4) defends in the first half at Allen Fieldhouse. Mandatory Credit: Jay Biggerstaff-USA TODAY Sports
After entering the night with zero expectations, it is hard to feel anything but encouraged following Iowa State’s 83-78 loss to Kansas Tuesday night in Lawrence.
Sure, it sucked to see the Cyclones falter down the stretch after tying the game at 73 with 3:40 left. That said, it was an impressive effort by Steve Prohm’s crew when you consider they played almost the entire second half with the same five guys.
They simply ran out of gas and Allen Fieldhouse is not a place where you can afford for that to happen. There’s a reason Kansas has not lost consecutive home games since 1989.
The Jayhawks got an opening once Iowa State got tired and once that happened it did not take much for them to take an insurmountable advantage. The game feels worse right now because of how the final four minutes went, but this is a tough as nails Iowa State team that I’m positive is trending in the right direction.
Here are three more points on Iowa State’s loss at Phog Allen.
1 — Lindell Wigginton is the freaking truth.
After playing two of the worst games of his college career, Iowa State’s freshman phenom played one of his best. The former five-star recruit from Nova Scotia poured in 27 points, on 10-of-20 from the field and 4-of-8 from deep, and grabbed two rebounds.
Since it opened in 1955, only four Cyclones have scored more points at Allen Fieldhouse than Wigginton did Tuesday night. Zaid Abdul-Aziz, Jeff Grayer, Curtis Stinson and Deonte Burton.
The first three names are all in the top-15 in career scoring at Iowa State. We all know how good Burton was in Cardinal and Gold. Simply, that’s some great company.
The kid is good. Really, really good.
He proved that again (and then some) against the Jayhawks.
2 — After really struggling early, Iowa State’s perimeter defense settled in enough to keep them in it.
Anybody who has watched Kansas this season knew the Jayhawks were going to come out firing from deep. That’s what made seeing Iowa State give them five nearly uncontested looks from 3-point range in the game’s first four possessions so frustrating.
Kansas scored 40 points in the first half Tuesday night and 27 of them came on 3-pointers. It is tough to hang around in that building when the Jayhawks are shooting at that sort of clip, but Iowa State was able to do it as they trailed by only three points at the break.
The Jayhawks cut their 3-point attempts in half (24 to 12) from the first to second half of the game and they got a lot fewer completely wide-open looks once Iowa State was able to settle in. The Cyclones still need to sure things up when it comes to running shooters off the line, but at least they didn’t allow themselves to be buried under the weight of Svi Mykhailiuk’s early shooting barrage.
Of course, this was the game five-star Malik Newman showed up though. After averaging 7.7 points and shooting 1-of-7 from deep in the first three Big 12 games, he dropped 27 points and knocked down five shots behind-the-arc.
3 — This team is tough as nails.
I wrote that before, but I wanted to write it again to hammer (pun not intended for humor) the point home. The Cyclones could have easily packed it in when down 10 with 15:17 left or when they went back down seven on a Newman 3-pointer with 10:41 left.
When the Phog crowd really got rocking on multiple occasions, Iowa State came right back with body blows of their own to quiet it.
Donovan Jackson, 20 points on 7-of-19 from the field and 6-of-14 from 3-point range, converted a lot of those run-busting shots that kept the ‘Clones in it until the final minutes. Cameron Lard had multiple big plays on his way to 15 points and 10 rebounds, but his seven turnovers will always stick out most on the stat sheet.
Nick Weiler-Babb was stellar with 13 points, 10 rebounds and eight assists to only three turnovers. Those three along with Wigginton were the reason Iowa State easily covered a 15.5-point spread.
Throw in a valiant effort from Hans Brase, who had three of his seven rebounds come on offense, and things look a lot brighter for Iowa State men’s basketball than they did 24 hours ago.
This young team is still learning what it takes to win at the highest level of college hoops, but, man, they sure are tough.