Kansas St.-Iowa St. Preview
Iowa State and Kansas State have quickly learned that a stagnant offense is no help within the highly-competitive Big 12.
The two longtime rivals each look to get their offenses in gear when the No. 16 Cyclones host the No. 22 Wildcats on Saturday.
Iowa State (14-3, 2-3) reeled off 14 straight victories to start the season but has slumped through a three-game skid after winning its first two conference games. The Cyclones, who averaged 87.0 points on 49.2 percent shooting during their 14-0 start, have put up 76.0 on 40.8 percent from the field during the losing streak.
The team is also shooting just 28.3 percent (21 for 83) from 3-point range in Big 12 play, which ranks among the worst in the conference.
Iowa State went 11 for 32 from long range and also had trouble protecting the ball in its most recent game, turning it over a season-worst 18 times in an 86-76 loss at Texas last Saturday. It was an uncharacteristic number for the Cyclones, who rank second nationally with a 1.78 assist-to-turnover ratio this season.
"We’ve lost the last three games. So we’ve forgotten about the 14 wins, too," said forward Georges Niang. "We’re just trying to get back on a one-game win streak. We are hard on ourselves, we need to relax. We have a lot of good players that can make plays, and a coach that can bring us together.
"We’re not sweating it too much, but we can understand why people have forgotten about the 14-game win streak."
The Wildcats (14-5, 4-2) could also use a turnaround after a tough loss of their own at Texas on Tuesday gave them a split of their last four conference games. Thomas Gipson scored a season-high 24 points for K-State, but Jonathan Holmes hit a catch-and-shoot 3-pointer at the buzzer to lift the Longhorns.
Kansas State has struggled from 3-point range overall this season, shooting 31.5 percent to rank near the bottom of the Big 12. It’s been an even-worse 19.0 percent in games the Wildcats have lost. Defense has been the key for K-State, which is 1-4 when it allows at least 67 points after the Texas loss.
"To win in this league, you have to be extra special," Kansas State coach Bruce Weber said. "You will have to do all your stuff well."
The Cyclones are 8-1 at home this season, including 3-1 against ranked teams, and have won two in a row there against the Wildcats after dropping five straight from 2007-11.
"From what I’ve seen is, man, they guard you," Cyclones coach Fred Hoiberg said of Kansas State. "They defend you and make you uncomfortable. They’re a good basketball team that’s extremely well-coached."
Iowa State could get a boost from the return of Bubu Palo, who has kept his eligibility after the Iowa Supreme Court ruled in his favor Friday following an issue regarding the university’s student code of conduct. Palo has played in 70 career games for the Cyclones, averaging 3.4 points.
The Cyclones have won three of the last four overall meetings between the teams after the Wildcats enjoyed a roughly five-year stretch in which they went 10-1 in the series.