Prior to today's tilt in Manhattan, Iowa State had yet to lose back-to-back games this season. Now that is no longer the case. Despite hot shooting in the first half, and a 12 point lead in the second half, the Cyclones dropped a physical and tough contest to the Kansas State Wildcats, 70-69 in Bramlage Coliseum.
Kansas State took advantage of their opportunities late, while Iowa State could not buy a bucket or a bounce when it mattered. Wesley Iwundu capped off a 22-9 run with a dunk off a Georges Niang turnover and the Cyclones left Manhattan sitting in 5th place in the Big XII.
The Cyclones shot 43% from the field but were plagued by poor defensive rotations and turnovers late. The Wildcats shook off an up and down first half to respond with a physical second half, a few well timed threes to cut the double digit lead, and strong defense to finish out the game.
Iowa State was led by Niang with 21 points and a career high five three pointers made. Jameel McKay was his usual self and chipped in 13 points to go with 10 rebounds, and Monte Morris steadied the team throughout with 15 points, five rebounds, and three assists.
However, the bench scoring that was so instrumental in the Cyclones' winning two straight on the road last week was nowhere to be found this week. The only points off the bench came on Matt Thomas' corner three to end the first half. Otherwise the bench rotation of Abdel Nader, Bryce Dejean-Jones, and Thomas combined to go 1-11 from the field with five rebounds, three of which belonged to Thomas.
Credit is due to Kansas State for digging out of two double digit holes in the game, but it's hard to feel anything but a bad taste in your mouth with how the game ended. An uncharacteristic inbounds gaffe from Niang led to an uncontested dunk for Kansas State, and a poor pass from underneath the hoop by Morris put Niang, and Naz Long, in an impossible position to take a potential game winning shot.
After a consensus dialogue of the team peaking at the right time we now find ourselves asking, "Who and when will this team play on Thursday, March 12th in Kansas City?"
The fifth place position for the Cyclones would have them matching up with West Virginia if the tournament were to start today, but a win over Oklahoma would vault them back in to second place based on record, but the sweep by Baylor would render Iowa State the three seed in Kansas City. There are two more games left to write the narrative of this season's Cyclones, and you can bet that we'll have a different opinion a week from now than we do currently.
The Cyclones are back in action for Big Monday at 8 PM CST against Oklahoma in Ames.