It just wasn't meant to be. Iowa State came into Allen Fieldhouse with aspirations of evening things up in the conference title landscape, but repeatedly suffered mental lapses on the defensive end of the floor, falling 89-76.
With the win, Kansas secured a two-game lead over the Cyclones atop the league standings and took a gigantic step toward securing an 11th-straight conference championship.
I'm not sure what Iowa State's game plan was defensively, but for most of the second half, Kansas was rarely challenged on shot attempts. The end result was 50% shooting from the Jayhawks, which included 10-21 from deep. Most of those attempts from long range came in the wide open variety.
It's a shame that the Cyclones, or at least everyone not named Georges Niang, didn't have a better showing, because early on, it looked as if Iowa State was every bit Kansas' equal. ISU got out to a 16-9 lead with just under 10 minutes left in the first half, but a 22-8 Kansas run put the Jayhawks up by 5 and they never gave up the lead from there.
Speaking of Niang, the junior forward was brilliant on the offensive end of the floor, scoring 24 points and was the only Cyclone player that played with any type of consistency. Niang also grabbed 6 rebounds and dished out 5 assists.
Bryce Dejean-Jones shook off an 0-7 start from the floor to score 14 points, though most of those came after Kansas had built a substantial second half lead. Monte Morris scored 12 points and dished out 5 assists, but turned the ball over an uncharacteristic 4 times. Naz Long also notched a double-figure scoring effort, chipping in 11 points.
Dustin Hogue appeared to be poised for a big-time game early on, but after scoring 7 points and grabbing 3 rebounds in the first half, Hogue failed to score again in the second stanza. Jameel McKay was his usual self off the bench, pulling down 7 rebounds, blocking 2 shots and scoring 8 points. Abdel Nader and Matt Thomas failed to score off the bench.
As a team, Iowa State shot only 41.7% from the floor and turned the ball over 14 times. The Cyclones did grab 17 offensive rebounds and dished out 17 assists, but there were no silver linings in this loss.
It's back to the drawing board for this team and this staff, especially on the defensive end of the floor. As painful as this loss is, it's important to remember that legacies are cemented in March, not in early February. I'm the last person that should ever offer perspective, but every goal this team established going into the year is still on the table. More importantly, I think we could be in store for a true rubber match in Kansas City in about six weeks.
It will undoubtedly be a long week of practice and Fred Hoiberg will have plenty of teaching opportunities, both from a player stand point and a coaching stand point.
Texas Tech comes to town on Saturday and it shouldn't be tough to get this team back up for that contest, considering what happened in Lubbock less than two weeks ago. That game will tip off at 1 PM on ESPNU.