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Morris Wins the Battle, Jayhawks Win the War

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Despite a strong effort by Monte Morris and Co., a slow stretch in the first half kept the Cyclones from mounting a comeback over the blue birds of Kansas.

NCAA Basketball: Kansas at Iowa State Reese Strickland-USA TODAY Sports

All eyes were on the matchup between two of the best point guards in the nation in Iowa State’s Monte Morris and Kansas’ Frank Mason III, and the best man came out on top, but his team did not. After spotting the Kansas Jayhawks a lead early on, the Iowa State Cyclones were unable to complete a comeback in a hard-fought 76-72 loss.

The first half featured moments in which it looked like Iowa State was on track to get blown out, trailing by as much as 10 twice and missing their first seven 3-point shots. A few fast break opportunities featuring Mason’s incredible bursts of speed and some bullying by Kansas big man Landen Lucas in the paint helped the Jayhawks maintain the lead. But 9 straight points from Deonte Burton and two long threes by Matt Thomas in the closing minutes of the half helped put the Cyclones back within 6 going into the break.

Morris came out on top in the battle of top point guards in the first half, putting up 10 points with three assists while tallying four steals and rebounds despite having 3 uncharacteristic turnovers. On the other side, Mason scored 9 points, enough to lead his Kansas Jayhawks for the half, but had just one assist on two turnovers.

The biggest team issue for ISU was rebounding, or lack thereof. The Jayhawks destroyed the Cyclones on the boards with a 21-9 advantage, including 7 offensive rebounds to help provide several second-chance opportunities. However, the defense attempted to counter the issue by forcing 11 turnovers in the half, just one less than what Kansas averages a game.

The second half started with a lot of back and forth action, with Morris hitting two threes and Naz Mitrou-Long drilling one of his own to get the Hilton crowd into it. But the Jayhawks were always able to find a way to answer back. It was a questionable-at-best foul call on Burton that led to an easy three for Sviatoslav Mykhailiuk, which gave Kansas a 9-point advantage.

At the five-minute mark, Mitrou-Long drilled a three and, on the following possession, Lagerald Vick was called for a moving screen that nearly tore the roof off of Hilton. Out of the under-4 timeout, Burton was able to create contact on his way to the hoop with the shot clock running down to help with an old-fashioned three-point play, but Kansas responded with a 6-0 run of their own.

The Cyclones found themselves down 73-64 with less than a minute remaining when magic began to brew. Mitrou-Long drilled a three, and after waiting a few seconds, Iowa State was forced to foul Mason, who missed the front end of a one and one. After Mitrou-Long was blocked on a three-point attempt, he recovered to find Morris who made it a 73-70 game. After a quick-and-easy dunk for the Jayhawks, Morris hit two free throws, but Iowa State had taken too much time off the clock to give themselves a chance to come back. At the final horn, Kansas wound up on top, 76-72.

Morris led Iowa State in scoring, finishing with 23 points along with seven rebounds and assists while not turning the ball over in the second half. Burton finished just behind, with 21 points and three blocks. Mason, who appeared injured at times in the second half, finished with 16 points along with six rebounds and an assist.

Kansas finished shooting 55% from the field, the 4th straight game in which Iowa State has allowed their opponents to make more than half of their shot attempts. In addition, the Jayhawks finished with a 41-24 rebounding advantage over the Cyclones.

With the loss tonight, Iowa State falls to 11-6, 3-3 in conference play. Three losses by Iowa State come against three teams in the current AP top six by an average of 2.6 points.

The Cyclones will look to bounce back in Norman on Saturday as they take on the Oklahoma Sooners at 1:00 p.m. on ESPN2.