ISU’s sophomore power forward ...
The Morris twins, Mario Little, Quintrell Thomas and Cole Aldrich took turns guarding 6-foot-10 Iowa State sophomore forward Craig Brackins on Jan. 24 in Ames, Iowa.
KU’s Fab Five tried, but failed to slow the first-team all-Big 12 candidate, who exploded for a career-high 42 points off 11-of-19 shooting and 17-of-21 free throwing in the Cyclones’ 82-67 loss to the Jayhawks.
Brackins scored both inside and out in netting the seventh-most points ever scored against KU — most since Oklahoma State’s Randy Rutherford tallied 45 on March 5, 1995.
“We can put together a Brackins highlight tape on what he did against Kansas and not even include anybody else,” KU coach Bill Self said.
“At halftime I challenged our guys to not have him get 22 the second half. They responded brilliantly by only allowing 20. I may have to set the standard higher,” Self cracked.
It’s not yet known which Jayhawk will open defensively on the versatile Palmdale, Calif., native when the teams meet again at 7 tonight in Allen Fieldhouse.
“I don’t know. Maybe all of us,” KU junior guard Sherron Collins said. “It’ll have to be a team effort. We don’t want him to get 42 again.
“I think we’ll have the same assignments,” added Collins, who burned ISU for a career-high 26 points the first meeting.
“He was hitting tough shots. Hopefully we’ll get him out of his comfort zone in the fieldhouse. We’ll not try to stop him but contain him a little bit better than before.”
Since the KU game, Brackins has averaged 21.0 points and 9.0 rebounds per contest.
The Big 12’s second-leading scorer (19.7 ppg) scored 27 points in Saturday’s 86-67 setback at Oklahoma State and 26 points in a victory over Colorado on Feb. 11 in Ames.
He also scored 24 in a loss at Colorado, 19 in a home loss to Oklahoma, 16 in a home loss to Missouri and 14 (off 6-of-20 shooting) in a loss at Kansas State.
“K-State probably did as good a job of guarding him as anybody,” said Self, whose Jayhawks enter tonight’s game 20-5 overall and 9-1 in the league. ISU enters 13-12, 2-8.
“They switched some ball screens, fronted him in the post and did a good job of that. K-State’s defense is good in putting so much pressure on you,” Self said.
“What pressure does is keeps you from throwing the ball where it needs to go because you are so worried about surviving. They did a good job against Iowa State.
“We will try to come up with some ways to try to limit his good touches. He’ll probably score some points,” Self added. “Last time he made some hard shots and got to the free throw line.”
Brackins, who attempted 21 free throws versus KU, has averaged just 4.7 trips to the line in ISU’s other nine conference clashes.
“Make sure he doesn’t score 42,” center Cole Aldrich said, asked to identify one of KU’s challenges. “It’ll be tough. He’s such a good player. He has an outside/inside game. We know we have to get help on Brackins. He’s such a good offensive player. He’ll get his. We’ll try to limit him as much as we can, play all around good defense.
“I know last time we did a good enough job on the others. We didn’t let their shooters get comfortable. They have some good shooters,” Aldrich added.
Brackins was the only Cyclone to hurt the Jayhawks in Ames. Jamie Vanderbeken was next in line in scoring with eight points.
On the season, ISU has just one double-digit scorer. Diante Garrett averages 9.9 points per contest.
Perhaps Self will use his box and one defense on Brackins tonight.
A triangle-and-two helped KU upend Kansas State, 85-74, on Saturday in Manhattan.
Or maybe KU’s defensive stopper, 6-3 Brady Morningstar, will be the secret weapon.
“I don’t know. He just might be a little too tall (to guard),” the 6-foot-3 Morningstar said. “He had a heck of a game against us. Hopefully this game we can contain him better, get a hand up in his face, not give him open looks.”