Iowa St.-Kansas Preview
After an inconsistent start, Kansas is playing like the national title contender most touted it to be with a six-game winning streak that includes an impressive victory at Iowa State.
The sixth-ranked Jayhawks will try to knock the Cyclones off again Wednesday night, while a rare win in Lawrence would go a long way for No. 16 Iowa State as it attempts to recover from a midseason slump.
Kansas (15-4, 6-0 Big 12) struggled initially to live up to its preseason billing with a modest 6-3 start. A 61-57 defeat to then-No. 21 San Diego State on Jan. 5 ended the Jayhawks’ 68-game non-conference home winning streak, but they’ve responded in resounding fashion.
The last unbeaten team in league play, Kansas has won six straight, four of which came against ranked squads, including a 77-70 victory over then-No. 8 Iowa State (15-3, 3-3) on Jan. 13.
"I don’t know if I can name anybody that’s playing better than them right now," Cyclones coach Fred Hoiberg said. "When you have the talent and skillset of their players, and now they’re confident, that’s a tough team to beat."
The Jayhawks are shooting 54.9 percent over their last six, including a 31-for-54 performance in Saturday’s 91-69 win at TCU.
Andrew Wiggins scored 19 of his season-high 27 in the first half and led the team with a season-best five assists. He’s scored 17 or more in four of his last five, including 17 against Iowa State, after doing so just once over his previous five contests. Wiggins is also 19 of 22 from the foul line in his last two games.
"He can defer a little bit and he can kind of get lost, but he never got lost today," coach Bill Self said. "He was able to put his handprint all over the possessions and create opportunities for himself and others. I thought he played the way he should play every game."
The Jayhawks, who have won 54 of their last 56 Big 12 home games, got a career-high 23 points from Naadir Thorpe in the first meeting and a season-high 19 rebounds from Wiggins. Joel Embiid scored 12 second-half points as Kansas opened the half with a 16-5 run.
The Cyclones shot a season-worst 31.4 percent, including 4 of 25 from beyond the arc. They snapped a three-game slide Saturday with an 81-75 victory over then-No. 22 Kansas State, appearing to also put an end to a 3-point shooting slump. They were 9 of 18 after going 21 of 83 during the losing streak.
Melvin Ejim, who leads the team with 17.9 points per game, scored 20 and Georges Niang had 18.
However, DeAndre Kane struggled again, finishing with 10 points while going 3 of 12 from the field for the second straight game. He hasn’t quite been the same after spraining his ankle in a Jan. 11 loss at Oklahoma, as he’s shot 12 of 37 in three games since after knocking down 53.2 percent of his attempts in his first 15 contests.
The boards remain a concern for the Cyclones, who were outrebounded for the sixth time in seven games Saturday. Kansas claimed a 53-36 rebounding advantage in the first meeting.
The Jayhawks have won eight straight at home in the series since losing 63-61 in overtime Feb. 19, 2005. They won both 2012-13 regular-season meetings in OT before an 88-73 victory in the semifinals of the conference tournament March 15.