Jan 5, 2019; Ames, IA, USA; Iowa State Cyclones guard Tyrese Haliburton (22) reacts during the second half against the Kansas Jayhawks at Hilton Coliseum. Mandatory Credit: Jeffrey Becker-USA TODAY Sports
AMES — The 2019 Iowa State basketball team is for real.
We have long known this group is considerably more talented than the one that finished in the cellar of the Big 12 last season. It is no secret they have the high-end potential to compete with the best team’s in the league on a nightly basis.
I am not sure any of us saw Saturday afternoon coming. This team proved it has something to say about Kansas extending its 14-year league championship streak with a dominant 77-60 win over the No. 5 Jayhawks in front of 14,384 screaming fans at Hilton Coliseum.
“I think we’re right there. We have the talent for sure,” senior guard Marial Shayok, who scored a game-high 24 points, said of this team compared to others he played on before transferring to Ames from Virginia. “I just think we’re going to learn as the games go on and just with my experience and (Nick Weiler-Babb) and Mike (Jacobson), the older guys, we’re just going to provide as much knowledge and experience to the younger guys, but the younger guys are so talented that they pick up so quick. We’re right there for sure.”
“We showed that we can play with anybody in the country.”
Kansas has been considered one of the favorites to make a run at the Final Four since the season tipped off. You would have been crazy to think someone in the league was going to knock the league’s bully off its perch this season with the amount of talent they were infusing from the transfer ranks.
I would have called someone crazy for thinking Iowa State could do what they did on Saturday. Winning seemed possible, but to dominate in the fashion in which they did?
Not a chance.
The Cyclones were the better team from the jump in a game they led for 27:44. Kansas’ Dedric Lawson, the presumed favorite for Big 12 player of the year, was held to 13 points on 5-of-11 shooting. He turned the ball over six times to just three turnovers.
The Jayhawks turned the ball over 24 times in total, the most by Bill Self’s team in at least seven seasons.
“When you play Coach Self teams, the tougher team is going to win. The more detailed team is going to win. The team that defends,” Iowa State head coach Steve Prohm said. “You look at Kansas over the years, they’re not winning because they’re top five in the country offensively. They’re winning because they’re top five in the country offensively and defensively. I think if you’re going to consistently win at a high level you’ve got to be great on both ends of the floor. We’ve just got to continue to preach that.”
Steve Prohm on Iowa State's win over Kansas in this CFTV. pic.twitter.com/nJ1GtX3vTo
— CycloneFanatic.com (@cyclonefanatic) January 6, 2019
The defensive end is what makes this year’s Iowa State team different than great teams of the Fred Hoiberg or early Prohm eras. The Cyclones have all the potential in the world to score at a high-level and showed it during a blazing hot second in which they shot 69 percent from behind the 3-point line, but it is on the defensive end where this team has separated itself.
The Jayhawks, who were playing without third-leading scorer Udoka Azubuike, shot 42 percent from the field and 30 percent from deep. They failed to create any sort of momentum offensively the entire night.
Iowa State made them uncomfortable time and time again while getting their hands on nearly every pass and corralling most every loose ball. Kansas was able to get some second-chance looks in the first half, but a lot of that can be attributed to the fact that Kansas is a really bad 3-point shooting team and the rebounds consistently went long.
It was shored up in the second half as the Cyclones allowed only three offensive rebounds the remainder of the game. Once they smelled Jayhawk blood in the water, the Cyclones struck and left no mercy to the point where Self had exhausted his timeouts before the under-eight media timeout of the second half.
“They don’t have McDonald’s All-Americans like some schools are able to recruit so their guys don’t get the same national publicity going into a season. By the time they’ve been at a place for, and there are multiple teams in our league that do this, by the time they’ve been at a place for a year or two, they end up being every bit as good as the heralded guys going to their respective schools,” Self said of Iowa State’s talent. “Those guards, Babb, obviously, (Tyrese) Haliburton and (Lindell) Wigginton and Shayok, those four guards can play for anybody in the country. Anybody. They’re part of the rotation for the best teams in the country. I love their talent level.”
Bill Self on Iowa State's roster in this CFTV. pic.twitter.com/xhv7uZRrDn
— CycloneFanatic.com (@cyclonefanatic) January 6, 2019
The Cyclones are now projected to finish Big 12 play with a 12-6 record by KenPom. They have an opportunity to start league play 4-0 with winnable games against Baylor and Kansas State coming up next week.
We will find out over the next several weeks whether or not the Cyclones can do what no other team has done in more than a decade. If they are going to topple Kansas, they will do it by playing the way they did Saturday afternoon.
“The thing I keep telling our guys is we need to just sell out to being great defensively and being selfless offensively,” Prohm said. “. Because I think we’ve got four or five guys on that perimeter that on single nights can get 20. Can we continue to share the ball and be happy for one another? The thing about it, this is game two. We’ve got nine more weeks of this.”