Ames, Iowa No one on the Kansas basketball team expected it to be easy to stay unbeaten in Big 12 play — not with the Jayhawks playing a solid Iowa State team in front of a malicious Hilton Coliseum crowd Monday night.
Still, KU, as it has done every game since its season-opening loss to Indiana, had the talent — and veterans — to prevail in its biggest road challenge to date.
Seniors Frank Mason III and Landen Lucas combined for 30 points and Kansas defeated Iowa State, 76-72.
View a gallery of images from Monday night's game between the Jayhawks and Cyclones at Hilton Coliseum.
In no surprise to anyone following the program, Mason led the Jayhawks (17-1 overall, 6-0 Big 12) with 16 points, while adding six rebounds. Lucas, too, couldn’t be stopped inside on numerous occasions, on his way to a 14-point, six-rebound night at ISU (11-6, 3-3).
The Cyclones had won four of the previous six matchups in the series and two straight meetings in Hilton, before Kansas won at ISU for the first time in three years.
Here’s a quick look back at some of the action:
• The game turned when: Realistically, the Jayhawks would have needed a pretty special performance to pull away from ISU on its home court.
That didn’t happen, but the Jayhawks benefited greatly from their two sophomore subs, Lagerald Vick and Carlton Bragg, getting the kind of energy coach Bill Self long has wanted to see out of the duo. The two even played key parts of a first-half stretch that gave Kansas its first double-digit lead of the Big Monday showdown.
Bragg immediately made a positive impact when he got on the floor in the first half. All that followed from the sophomore big from Cleveland wasn’t sparkling and perfect, but he ran the floor hard soon after checking in to secure great post-up position and went to work for a layup.
That assertion and success for Bragg set him up for his first double-digit game since Nov. 18 versus Siena.
In 15 crucial minutes, the 6-foot-10 Bragg contributed 10 points and six rebounds — all of it necessary for a KU win.
Vick got himself easy baskets via a put-back on the offensive glass and a steal and slam in the first half. On the night, the sophomore wing from Memphis contributed eight points, five rebounds, three assists, two blocks and a steal.
• Offensive highlight: KU didn’t get its typical jaw-dropping slams in this gritty win.
So give this category to the man who secured the victory. With KU only up three points and less than 30 seconds left, the visitors broke Iowa State’s press (barely), and Josh Jackson saw sophomore Vick wide open ahead of him for a dunk that made it a two-possession game and a five-point lead with 18 seconds to play.
• Defensive highlight: Not interested in losing to Kansas on his home court as a senior, point guard Monte’ Morris at times willed his team into the game, and burnt the defending Big 12 champions for 23 points, seven assists and seven rebounds.
But on at least one trip down the floor, KU freshman Jackson got the best of the veteran.
Morris took off for a fast-break layup with Jackson trailing him and although the Cyclones guard could see the freshman closing in on the chase, Jackson almost baited Morris into testing him. Jackson timed his defensive strategy perfectly, waiting until Morris took off to close in, explode toward the rim, and knock the shot out of the air, sending it off the backboard, while preserving KU’s 34-27 advantage at the time.
• Key stat: Points in the paint. In the game’s opening minutes, neither team did a good job of defending the interior.
However, the Jayhawks adjusted appropriately, while Iowa State continued to have issues keeping Bragg, Lucas and even KU’s guards from getting to the basket and finishing.
Kansas out-scored the home team, 52-28, in the paint, leading to the Jayhawks’ 55-percent shooting and a critical Big 12 road win.
• Up next: Kansas returns to Allen Fieldhouse to take on struggling Texas, which currently has a 7-10 record and a 1-4 mark in the league.
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