The confession was accurate, yet difficult to admit after Kansas lost a Big 12 game for the first time.
“We pride ourselves on being a big-man school and rebounding and scoring inside,” center Jeff Withey said. “They just out-hit us.”
Iowa State did the hitting, and in the process handed the Jayhawks a 72-64 defeat on Jan. 28, prompting students to rush the floor in Hilton Coliseum as the Cyclones ended Kansas’ seven-game road winning streak.
Why not? The Cyclones finished last in the Big 12 a year ago. Their rise is both a credit to second-year coach Fred Hoiberg and indicative of the relative weakness of the Big 12 this season. Kansas topped the standings from the outset and still led the chase at the halfway mark, though its lead slipped to one game through Jan. 29.
The Jayhawks weren’t going to go undefeated through the Big 12. They lack the talent to pull that off, though role players had been providing a key punch to go with forward Thomas Robinson’s inside muscle and point guard Tyshawn Taylor’s command of the offense.
Against Iowa State, however, Robinson scored just 13 points. Taylor provided a team-high 16 points and 10 assists, but the damage was done underneath, where Kansas got outrebounded overall and outplayed, in particular, by the Cyclones’ Royce White.
The Jayhawks are seven-time defending conference champions and have no reason to fret about squandering the title this season, in spite of the blip in Ames. Robinson has demonstrated strong resolve to lead this team, as has Taylor, though a trip to Missouri on Feb. 4 looms as the next showdown. Kansas coach Bill Self is especially good at getting teams to regroup, particularly after expressing disgust in a performance.
After the Iowa State loss, Self kept it simple: “They outmanned us.”
Lack of bench contribution taxes starters —Of the issues Kansas must tackle, bench production may be the most difficult, and most telling. Reserves contributed just five points in a 72-64 loss at Iowa State on Jan. 28, the fourth consecutive game subs scored fewer than eight points.
“We’re not getting much at all,” coach Bill Self said. “We’re playing guys too many minutes, but we’re not getting much from our bench.”
The fewest minutes logged by a starter against Iowa State was 28 by C Jeff Withey. Each of the other Kansas starters played at least 34 minutes, including a full 40 from G Travis Releford. Eventually, legs could give out, and this is not the best time in the schedule with trips looming in the near future to Missouri, Baylor and Kansas State.
—Fatigue may have contributed to sub-par performance by F Thomas Robinson against Iowa State. The 6-foot-9 junior fell below his season averages by posting 13 points and seven rebounds. He also committed five turnovers, all off traveling violations. Iowa State also defended Robinson well in the first meeting, holding him to 11 points. Again, the Cyclones collapsed down low, but Robinson managed to get some open looks he failed to convert.
“I’m just not playing my game,” Robinson said. “I’m speeding up again and not taking my time. I’m just not playing the same right now.”
—Self referred to the Iowa State trip as the true start of the Jayhawks’ conference schedule. Just one other road trip to date could have been considered difficult. That was to Texas, where the Jayhawks held off a late rally before a docile crowd. In contrast, the full house in Hilton Coliseum was fully engaged and primed for an upset. In the next three weeks, Kansas will potentially face the same kind of hostility at Missouri, Baylor and Kansas State.
“We knew this wasn’t going to be an undefeated team in the Big 12,” Releford said. “But when we’ve got control of it, we’ve got to take advantage of it, especially on away games. Those are the biggest part of winning the Big 12.”
BY THE NUMBERS: 13 — Consecutive victories for Kansas against Iowa State, a streak that dated to Feb. 19, 2005, prior to the Jan. 28 loss in Ames.
QUOTE TO NOTE: “We’ve got to tighten some things up. Sometimes through a loss you can do some things and get their attention more than when you win ugly.” — Kansas coach Bill Self.