With the effort and execution Iowa State showed on Wednesday night, they could have come out with a victory on the road at a lot of different venues around the country. The problem, however, was that on this particular night, the Cyclones just so happened to be playing in arguably the most difficult venue against what might be the best team in the country as #16 Iowa State fell to #6 Kansas, 92-81.
Many of us (myself included) never really gave Iowa State a chance in this game. Kansas is playing like a national title favorite lately and Allen Fieldhouse rarely sees the home team lose. Still, Iowa State played surprisingly well for portions of the game, but just didn't have enough juice down the stretch to pull this one out.
Nobody here is going to feel good about moral victories, but this game showed that despite some recent struggles, Iowa State still has some fight in them and is capable of playing well and getting back to playing winning basketball.
The schedule doesn't get any easier, however, as the Cyclones return home to Ames to host a red-hot Oklahoma team on Saturday and then will make a quick turn around and head to the house of horrors in Stillwater to face Oklahoma State on Monday night.
- It's been a recurring theme in these recaps, but time and time again, we've seen Iowa State get out to poor starts to halves and it's costing this team in the win column. In both halves on Wednesday, Kansas jumped out to double-digit leads and made it incredibly difficult for Iowa State to fight to get back in the game. Now, credit has to be given for how Iowa State responded to those runs, but the point still remains, how does this game go if Iowa State doesn't allow those runs to happen?
- After shooting 4-20 and 0-9 from three against Kansas in Ames, Georges Niang responded in a major way. He led Iowa State in scoring with 24 points on 10-17 shooting. Niang didn't do it alone, though, as DeAndre Kane scored 22 points and Melvin Ejim chipped in with a familiar 18 and 8. Iowa State failed to get a 4th guy in double figures, but this trio put the team on their collective backs and rose to the occasion.
- For the second straight game, Matt Thomas showed a little more promise and a little more confidence. Thomas came off the bench and knocked down his first 3-point attempt and hit another later in the game. He also handed out three assists and came up with a couple surprising blocks. We've said all year that Iowa State doesn't need Thomas to score in double figures to win, but getting something from him is a must and Thomas quietly delivered.
- As for team stats, Iowa State shot the ball very well, hitting on 48.4% of their field goals and shot 10-26 (38.5%) from outside. The problem was that Kansas shot 51.6% overall and 45.5% from three, making 10-22. Kansas also managed to grab 11 offensive rebounds to Iowa State's 7 and the Jayhawks made more free throws (18) then Iowa State attempted (16).
- Since officiating always gets brought up, this game did feature a few puzzling calls and a little home cooking, but none more so than Iowa State typically gets in Hilton Coliseum...except when they play Kansas. And at the risk of sounding petty, Kansas fans love to talk about the boo birds in Hilton and even refer to us as "Boo U". Now, it could have been my TV, but I do believe I heard plenty of booing on Wednesday night. Maybe I'm just making that up, though. Kansas fans would surely never boo.
- Okay, so that was a little petty, so I'll give credit where credit is due. If I'm picking a team to win the national championship as of Thursday, January 30th, I've got my money on the Kansas Jayhawks. Iowa State had their chances on Wednesday night, but that Kansas team would have beaten anyone in the country in that game last night, so I guess we can all take solace in the fact that Iowa State was able to challenge Kansas like they did.