After a dominant performance against the Jayhawks a few short weeks ago, Iowa State came into Allen Fieldhouse ready to knock off the Dirty Birds at home for the 2nd time since 2017. After taking a lead into half, the Cyclones seemed poised to do just that. But much like Thanos, Bill Self snapped his fingers and all hell broke loose. The Jayhawks went on a 14-0 run midway through the 2nd half and ended up closing out the Clones for a final score of 80-76.
Though that 14-0 run was an obvious turning point in the game, I felt a stronger pull to look at the impeccable play of the Kansas transfer big man Dedric Lawson, and the Cyclones’ inability to defend the paint, in this edition of How the Game was Lost.
Dedric Lawson and Iowa State Rim Protection
Dedric Lawson arrived at Kansas via Memphis this season averaging 19.2 point per game and 14.1 field goals. This season he has steadily averaged just about the same numbers, 19.5 ppg and 13.6 fga. But the advanced numbers tell a different story. Lawson during his time at Memphis had a 51.7% true shooting percentage and now he’s made the jump to almost 60%. So, almost a 10% increase. Pretty good. We knew coming into Monday’s game that he would be tough to handle in the low post, but Iowa State did an excellent job the last time they squared off. They made him catch the ball in places where he was uncomfortable, and used swarming team defense to jump into the passing lanes and cause turnovers. Life was difficult for the big guy. But this time? Not so much.
You know that scene in Batman Begins where Batman takes down those random henchmen one by one at the shipping yard? Well if you watch the game again, you can very clearly see the same reactions on the face of every ISU defender who got annhilated by Lawson. Confusion first, then the realization that “This dude is probably gonna destroy me.” Iowa State absolutely could not handle him. It didn’t matter who guarded Lawson, either. Here he is shooting over Jacobson:
Here’s Lard doing his best:
And finally Halliburton on a switch at the top of the key:
For the record, Lawson shoots 25% from 3 point land and went 2-2 against Iowa State on Monday. It really didn’t matter who was in front of him. That ball was going in regardless of what poor soul was in his way. Oh, and did I mention he made the right passes, too?
He was good. Like, really really good. He is a huge part of the reason that Iowa State lost. But don’t worry, I won’t spend all day looking at clip- OH NO NOT ANOTHER ONE
At some point you just have to give it up for the guy. He played great, got hot at the right times, and made big shots. Give him credit. Or, shake your head and ask yourself why Prohm didn’t throw Conditt on him for at least a few possessions. Or, ask yourself why Conditt didn’t play in the first place. Apparently, he was sick. Or... *Puts on tin foil hat* Was he?
He's not sick.— GeorgeConditt3 (@damane_event) January 22, 2019
So Conditt was a no go. What about Michael Jacobson? I think this far into the year we’ve established that Jacobson isn’t exactly an elite rim protector. He’s the clear number one choice in the frontcourt on the offensive end, but due to his lack of size and length, he doesn’t quite fit the mold as “The Guy.” on defense, and that’s fine. He plays well within the confines of his ability and I think most nights he’s serviceable, albeit not great, at stepping in and contesting shots.
But what about Cam Lard? He had a phenomenal past season and looked to make the leap this year into an even better shot blocker and steady contributor on offense.
Now, obviously he’s missed some games and we’re all aware of the problems he’s been having, but he has to find a way to stay on the floor. He’s averaging the same amount of fouls per game this year as he was last year, which would be fine except he’s now playing 17 fewer minutes a game. Sheesh.
Oh and if you think that’s bad, he’s averaging 12.7 FOULS PER 40 MINUTES.
Anyways, all this is to say that Lard fouled out having only played 6 minutes against the Jayhawks.
Which leads me to my next point, which is the awful job Iowa State did all throughout the game at stopping penetration to the paint. The second half of the game looked like a layup line, at times. In particular, Marcus Garrett did whatever the hell he wanted, whenever the hell he wanted. And it was almost exclusively to his right.
Just as a completely, totally, off-the-wall, unrelated side note to Marcus Garrett, he happens to shoot 25% from 3. But here’s his shot chart from last night:
And I think that’s really what this game came down to: Lawson going nuclear combined with Iowa State’s inability to defend the paint resulted in 4 point loss in a place where teams simply don’t win. Winning at Allen Fieldhouse means playing 40 minutes of near-perfect basketball. Iowa State didn’t do that and that’s OK.
Think about it this way: Iowa State had to deal with both Lindell Wigginton and Cam Lard BOTH being non-factors, a 29 point explosion from Dedric Lawson, AND George Conditt, their 2nd best rim protector, not playing for whatever reason.
And they only lost by 4.
There are plenty of reasons to be exasperated at this loss, but in the grand scheme of things, peaking in March is what matters most, and this game will go a long way in helping these guys learn from their mistakes and ultimately become a better basketball team.