The frustration was evident, but there were no tears in the Iowa State locker room following ISU’s 82-73 loss to No. 10 Kansas University on Saturday at Allen Fieldhouse.
Three days after nearly gutting out a victory at home against No. 9 Missouri, the Cyclones controlled Saturday’s game most of the way, but fell victim to one of those signature KU runs and walked away wondering what happened.
“It’s frustrating, sure, but you try to look at the positives,” said ISU sophomore Royce White, who led the Cyclones with 18 points and 17 rebounds in 28 minutes. “If Missouri’s 9 and Kansas is 10, we might be 11 or 12.”
After trailing 7-6 early on, Iowa State played from ahead until the 10:22 mark of the second half, when a bucket by KU’s Kevin Young put the Jayhawks in front, 63-61. Once Kansas got in front again, the Cyclones never were able to recover, and the final nine minutes looked a lot like the 12 games in the series that preceded this one.
The Jayhawks have won 13 straight games against the Cyclones. ISU’s last victory against KU came in 2005 — in Allen Fieldhouse, no less — and many Cyclones sensed that Saturday would be the day the streak would end.
“There are a lot of variables in a basketball game,” White said. “They’re one of the best teams in the country, and we knew they were gonna make a run. This is one of the hardest places to play, and as soon as they start to make their run, that crowd gets into it, and that was tough for us.”
Added ISU coach Fred Hoiberg: “The big thing we talked about is getting off to a good start. They come out of that locker room, and in the first five minutes it sometimes feels like they have six players on the floor.”
Early, the Cyclones did more than keep the KU crowd quiet. In jumping to a 17-7 lead, the Cyclones hit three three-pointers and played with the kind of swagger rarely seen from a visiting team in Allen Fieldhouse.
ISU built a lead of as many as 11 in the first half and led by nine four times and 10 four times.
“We went to a new offense, and I’m sure they hadn’t scouted it because this was our first game running it,” White said. “We had a five-out, nobody-in motion, and the whole point of it is just to keep the spacing real wide and high and leave lanes, and I think we did a pretty good job with it the whole game. We missed some shots that we normally make (down the stretch), but it’s a big-time venue. You can’t blame people for missing shots.”
After leading by three at halftime, the Cyclones pushed their lead to double digits — 50-40 — with a 7-0 run to start the second 20 minutes. Behind a stellar second half from senior guard Tyshawn Taylor and some serious toughness from center Jeff Withey, Kansas responded with a 30-11 run that put the Cyclones away.
White was more than willing to give Taylor credit for his big night, but also said the Cyclones’ emphasis on KU big man Thomas Robinson may have cost them.
“We knew he was their biggest threat coming in, and we wanted to try to contain him as much as possible,” White said of Robinson. “That’s how somebody like Tyshawn ends up getting 28. You worry so much about (Robinson), and someone else gets loose and has the opportunity to hit some big-time shots.”
Although the loss dropped ISU to 12-5 overall and 2-2 in Big 12 play, White said the team would build from the setback.
“We’re still growing as a team,” he said. “This is still our first (17) games together. We’ll get it.”
Asked if he was looking forward to another shot at the Jayhawks — Jan. 28, in Ames, Iowa — White smiled.
“Oh yeah,” he said. “You gotta look forward to that. When you’re a competitor and you basically had the game in your favor the whole time, you definitely look forward to a chance to get ’em back at your house.”