The Jayhawk is a Blue Jay/Sparrow Hawk put together, but if you showed Jack Hanna a picture of their logo, he would probably assume it was the Dodo bird, a bird that is commonly made fun of for being stupid because it had no self-defense against predators and became extinct just years after its first contact with humans.
That's exactly how the Kansas Jayhawks felt Monday night, coming into Hilton Coliseum to face Iowa State. They had no self-defense, and there was no escaping the attack of the Cyclones. The Jayhawks felt helpless, and because of the Cyclones, the reigning Big 12 champions of 11 years in a row are no longer in control of their own destiny after losing 85-72 in Hilton Coliseum.
Perry Ellis started his last game in Hilton by getting the first points for either team. After a 4-0 start for the Jayhawks and some sloppy offensive play, Iowa State was able to get on the board off a Georges Niang drive to the hoop. Just a few minutes later, Matt Thomas drilled a three. However, the Cyclones weren't able to keep Kansas out of the paint, and heading into the first media timeout, it was an 8-5 Kansas lead.
Jameel McKay came out of the media timeout hitting two free throws, but that was about all the Cyclones could muster the next few minutes. The shots weren't falling and Kansas was dominating down low until Deonte Burton came in with the Cyclones down 15-7 and made a sweet move to the hoop, which was followed up a few seconds later with a Monte Morris three. But the Iowa State defense was unable to knock Kansas out of their offensive rhythm and nine minutes into the game, ISU was down 21-14.
After a three put Kansas up 24-14, Steve Prohm elected to go to a 2-3 zone defense, which was finally able to slow down the Kansas offense. Unfortunately, the Cyclones weren't able to capitalize on a few fast break opportunities, and at the seven minute mark, trailed the Jayhawks 26-20 due to Frank Mason III carving the ISU defense.
Kansas continued to attack McKay, who had a very slow defensive start. Kansas was able to get to the hoop and put up shots at ease. While the Cyclone offense started to heat up, these easy buckets for the Jayhawks allowed them to keep the lead.
Abdel Nader helped keep the Cyclones in the game after hitting two huge threes, while Thomas created two turnovers, one which he sprinted down the court to lay in a missed layup by Morris, the other in which he threw the ball right back to Kansas, resulting in a transition three for the Jayhawks. Heading into the final media timeout of the first half, Iowa State was down 38-32.
Iowa State finally turned Bill Self's face red a minute later, after Morris hit two free throws which were followed up by a Nader spin move to the hoop to put the Cyclones down just two points, forcing a Kansas timeout. The Jayhawks responded and drilled a three out of the timeout, and it was a fitting end to the half as Kansas, at the last second, had a fast break off a turnover that led to an uncontested layup to end the half up 43-36.
Being down seven was actually a positive for the Cyclones. Seth Greenberg said it best that Iowa State took absolutely nothing away from Kansas offensively. The Jayhawks did whatever they wanted down low, and the only person McKay was able to control was Cheick Diallo, while everyone else on Kansas did whatever they wanted to the 6'9" senior and reigning Big 12 Defensive Player of the Year.
Another red flag was turnovers. While the Cyclones had just four turnovers in the first half, the three by Thomas were inexcusable. A travel off of a simple handoff and passing the ball away during two fast breaks completely took the Cyclones out of the game in the first half at times where momentum was starting to swing.
Niang came out of the half on fire, putting up the first six points for the Cyclones. Minutes later, Thomas and Morris both hit threes, and the Cyclones were down just 50-48 with 14 minutes to go.
Hilton Magic came to life, and the Cyclone defense started disrupting the Jayhawk offense, forcing uncharacteristic turnovers from Kansas.
After a free throw and a ball screen layup, the Cyclones were down three, but not for long, and Thomas drilled a three to tie it up at 53 with 11:43 to go in the half, but Kansas responded quickly with a layup in the paint, and the score was 55-53 heading into the under-12 timeout
Morris came out of the timeout with a pull up jumper to tie it back up. An airball on the other end by Kansas allowed Nader to sprint down court and miss a 1-on-4 layup, but fortunately Kansas responded with the same move and gave Iowa State the ball right back. McKay made a nice move to the basket around his man, but was unable to put in the layup around Ellis, and Mason sprinted down and forced a foul putting him at the line and giving the Jayhawks another two point lead.
Enter Niang, who sat for three minutes after getting his third foul. He immediately came in and put up a hook shot to tie it back up, followed by Landen Lucas' fourth foul off a moving screen. At 8:56, Burton drilled a three, and the Cyclones took their first lead of the game. The roof nearly tore off the Hilton, and Nader came up with a huge steal and assist to Morris who made a layup to give the Cyclones a 62-57 lead with 8:24 in the game, forcing a timeout from Bill Self.
The timeout was beneficial for the Cyclones, who forced some sloppy passing from Kansas. With the ball on the floor, Thomas picked it up, threw it to Morris, who lobbed it up to Nader for the hard slam dunk. On the way down, more sloppy offense out of the Jayhawks allowed Thomas to come up with the ball again, but he was fouled immediately. Niang came down the court and attempted a hook shot that went in and out, allowing Kansas to run down the court and set up, but Nader wasn't having any of that, as he stole the dribble from Wayne Selden and was fouled on his way up for a dunk. After hitting both free throws, the Cyclones were up 66-57.
But the Jayhawks fought back. After having a turnover given back to them by a foul call on Burton, Ellis made a huge offensive rebound and made a shot under the hoop while Burton committed another foul, and the Cyclones were up just 66-62.
Niang went straight to work under the basket, though, and made a move to put the Cyclones back up 6. After another turnover by the Jayhawks, the Cyclones had an opportunity to add to their lead, but Jordan Ashton missed a jumper and Kansas came back to make an easy layup. Niang went back to work, this time forcing a double team and finding Nader in the corner, who hit a three to give the Cyclones a 71-64 lead. After a quick layup from Kansas, Niang went back under the block, this time with no help defense, and made another close shot putting the Cyclones up 73-66 heading into the final media timeout.
Kansas came out of the timeout trying to isolate Wayne Selden Jr., who drove to the hoop and forced Nader to foul him. After knocking down one of the free throws, the Cyclones led by 7, but that lead grew as Morris drove to the hoop and made a layup while getting fouled. After hitting the free throw, Iowa State had their first double digit lead of the game. Nader came up with another huge steal and threw it up to Thomas, who elected to kill time instead of shoot an open three. After a missed jumper by Morris, the Jayhawks forced the ball up and took a bad shot. Niang grabbed the rebound and 13 seconds later made a layup while getting fouled by Selden. The Cyclones took an 80-67 lead after Niang made the free throw.
On the other end, Devonte Graham was called for traveling, allowing Iowa State to continue letting time trickle down. After Niang missed a three, the Jayhawks found Ellis on the block for an easy layup and quickly fouled Morris on the throw in, who made one of his free throws. Brennan Greene made a layup while getting fouled and hit the free throw.
Iowa State's lead was nine points with a minute left. Typically, this would be a comfortable lead, but Iowa State fans held their breaths and prepared their nut cups. But it didn't last more than five seconds, as a Thomas-Niang-Nader press break, giving Nader a monster slam, put the Cyclones up 11, then Thomas stole the ball just seconds later and slammed it home, giving Iowa State an 85-72 lead with 45 seconds left, and no one would score again after that.
Steve Prohm's halftime speech worked, as the Cyclones put up 20 more points than Kansas in the second half, and the defense looked as good as it has all season.
A concern to look forward to this week will be Jameel McKay's injury. He left the game in the second half to get his knee looked at. For this specific game, him sitting out likely benefitted the Cyclones, as their small lineup is what dominated the Jayhawks. It is possible his injury in the first half that led to his lackluster defense. However, a healthy McKay is a 100% necessity if the Cyclones want to remain in the hunt for the Big 12 title.
It was a bitter and sad end to the career of Perry Ellis in Ames, Iowa. Ellis is the last player remaining in the NCAA who played at both Hilton Coliseum and the Armory, taking on players like Gary Thompson to Zaid Abdul-Aziz to Georges Niang. He lost his last two games in Hilton.
Niang (19 points, 6 rebounds, 3 assists) dominated the second half, putting up 15 points. Monte Morris controlled the entire game, putting up 21 points and 9 assists, while never turning the ball over to the #4 team in the country. Nader and Thomas also had great games, both getting 4 steals. Nader had 17 points, going 3-3 from deep, while Thomas had 13 points and going 3-6 from behind the arc.
Iowa State next takes on #5 Texas A&M in College Station, Texas on Saturday, January 30th at 1 p.m. on ESPN.