To be frank, the 15th ranked Kansas Jayhawks (12-4, 3-0)) really didn’t deserve to win against the 8th ranked Iowa State Cyclones (14-2, 2-2) Monday night in Ames. In all reality, there was just one reason why Kansas won, and it was nothing they did. This game was all thanks to the Cyclones.
Kansas committed 24 turnovers for the second time in a single game this season. Center Joel Embiid tallied 7 of them, just one less than the whole Iowa State ball club. Andrew Wiggins was charged with 6. Naadir Tharpe had 4. Just these three players had more than double the Cyclones total.
So, just how did Kansas beat Iowa State while committing three times the turnovers?
The answer is simple – the Cyclones couldn’t hit a shot. Specifically, they couldn’t hit a 3-point shot. Iowa State was ice cold. They couldn’t hit the broad side of a barn. They couldn’t hit water from a boat. Whatever cliche you want to use really can’t describe just how bad the Cyclones were at shooting the ball.
The Cyclones connected on just 4 of 25 three-pointers for 16%. They were only 18 of 45 on 2-point attempts for a dismal 40%. On the night, Iowa State hit just 31.4% of their field goal attempts.
Yet, they only lost by 7 points. If Iowa State converted a measly 28% of their threes, there is a good chance they win this ball game. They didn’t need to set the world on fire; they just needed to be below average, and they would have knocked off the Jayhawks. Instead, they self-checked themselves into their second straight conference loss.
You know the old biblical saying that if you live by the sword, you shall die by the sword? This has been the case with Iowa State over the past three days. They were only 6-26 from behind the arc against Oklahoma on Saturday. In their two losses, they were a combined 10 for 51 from three. That is not going to win games in the Big 12.
It wasn’t as if they were just hoisting it up there either. They average right at 25 three-point attempts a game. They shoot this many every night out. They usually hit 9 a night. If they hit their average against Kansas, he Jayhawks leave Iowa with their 5th loss of the season.
So, why the rant against Iowa State’s shooting? Because Kansas fans shouldn’t feel all safe, warm, and fuzzy about their victory. Be thrilled they won, but don’t go thinking all the ills are cured. Look no further than those 24 turnovers.
It cannot be a common thing for a team to commit 16 more turnovers than their opponent, on the road, and win the ball game. It can’t happen all that often that a team commits 9 more fouls, shoots fewer free throws than the opponent makes, and wins the ball game, on the road.
Kansas didn’t win this one as much as Iowa State lost it with their shooting ineptitude.
This isn’t to say the Jayhawks didn’t do some things right. They did hit their shots, nailing 49.2% of their attempts. They rebounded like beasts, pulling down 53 rebounds to Iowa State’s 36. In fact, Kansas had more defensive boars than the Cyclones had total rebounds.
Naadir Tharpe had a fine night shooting the ball. He hit 7 of 9, including 3 of 4 from beyond the arc, for a career high 23 points to lead Kansas. He also had 4 assists to go with his 4 turnovers. Andrew Wiggins had 17 points and a whopping 19 rebounds. He had 3 assists, a steal, and a block to off set his 6 turnovers.
Joel Embiid used a monster second half to finish with 16 points, 9 rebounds, 2 assists, 2 steals, 5 blocked shots, 7 turnovers, and 5 fouls. Now that is stuffing a stat sheet!
Kansas got almost nothing from their bench as the reserves combined to score all of 6 points. The bench also added 7 rebounds, 0 assists, 0 steals, 0 blocked shots, 4 turnovers, and 11 fouls. Yes, the bench had more turnovers and fouls than it had points and rebounds.
Only two Cyclones reserves played, and they outscored Kansas’ vaunted depth by 4. Those two bench players had 3 rebounds, 5 assists, 5 steals, 3 blocked shots, and 0 turnovers, in 4 less total minutes played.
The Cyclones bad shooting night was not forced by fierce defensive intensity either. While Kansas did a better job a challenging some of the Cyclones shots, many of the missed threes were wide open opportunities. The perimeter defenders let their men get by them, seemingly at will, seldom stopping them from driving without committing a foul. This poor perimeter defense is putting pressure on the big men, as they racked up foul after foul, trying to clean up the mess.
DeAndre Kane, bad ankle and all, was as good as advertised, scoring a team high 21 points, pulling down 8 caroms, dishing out 3 assists, and recording 4 steals, while committing just 2 turnovers and 1 foul. Melvin Ejim finished with 15 points and 5 boards, and Dustin Hogue had 13 points and 9 rebounds.
Kansas won the game but the problems are still there. They still struggle on defense, and they still do not value the basketball like they should. They are sloppy and careless. They also shoot the ball pretty well, and they are hitting the glass hard. There is more obvious hustle and intensity from most of the players. Those things are good so it is not all just doom and gloom.
Head Coach Bill Self and his staff must continue to search for ways to get their players to play better, more consistent defense, and to take care of the basketball. Yes, it is great that Kansas is leading the Big 12. They still need to improve if they want to stay on top. It is still very early in conference play.
Next Up: The Oklahoma State Cowboys come calling on Saturday at 3:00.