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Tuesday, February 13, 2018

Game day Breakdown: No. 13 KU basketball at Iowa State

Kansas guard Devonte' Graham (4) gets to the bucket past Iowa State forward Cameron Lard (2) during the second half, Tuesday, Jan. 9, 2018 at Allen Fieldhouse.

Kansas guard Devonte' Graham (4) gets to the bucket past Iowa State forward Cameron Lard (2) during the second half, Tuesday, Jan. 9, 2018 at Allen Fieldhouse.

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No. 13 Kansas Jayhawks (19-6 overall, 8-4 Big 12) vs. Iowa State Cyclones (13-11 overall, 4-8 Big 12)

Time: 6 p.m. | Location: Hilton Coliseum, Ames, Iowa

TV: ESPN2 | Radio: IMG Jayhawk Radio Network

Log on to KUsports.com for our live game blog coverage and follow the KUsports.com staff on Twitter: @KUSports @mctait @TomKeeganLJW @bentonasmith @nightengalejr @chasenscott & @nickkrug

Keys for Kansas

1. Press the release valve

With KU's loss at Baylor last weekend dropping the Jayhawks a game behind Texas Tech in the Big 12 standings with six games to play, things are starting to get a little tense around Lawrence.

The bulk of that pressure can be seen and measured by the panic of a KU fan base that has become used to the Jayhawks winning the conference every year, often watching them do it with relative ease.

KU coach Bill Self said he understood that and appreciated the passion of the fans. But he was not about to let the current situation infect his team in the locker room or during practice. And he's doing his best to maintain a positive mindset while reminding his players that all of their goals remain attainable.

“You could make a lot of things out to be positive, negative. The reality is, we just haven't played as well of late,” Self said. “We just need to go to Ames and play with a fresh mind and let it ride.”

2. Azubuike has to be better

Redshirt freshman Cameron Lard recorded a whopping 17 rebounds in Iowa State's most recent game, a total that even had Self singing the 6-foot-9, 225-pound forward's praises this week.

“Any time a freshman gets 17 rebounds in a game, that's impressive,” Self said. “Especially against OU.”

Lard recorded a double-double against the Jayhawks in the first meeting (15 points and 10 rebounds) and outplayed Azubuike, who finished with nine points and six rebounds.

The 7-foot Jayhawk is going to need to reverse that output to give Kansas a chance and the easiest way for him to do that is by staying on the floor.

Azubuike is battling through quite a stretch where bad fouls have limited his court time and Self said the easiest way to solve that issue is for Azubuike to play “smarter.”

“You guys can see what a drop-off there is (when Azubuike is on the bench) because attacking a zone when you have no inside presence in there makes it a little bit more difficult,” Self said. “So we need him in the game the vast majority of the minutes.”

And he needs to be a force and have the biggest impact of anyone when he's out there.

3. Bench production

With veteran Nick Weiler-Babb out with a knee injury, the Iowa State lineup gets pretty young and pretty thin in a hurry.

Sound familiar?

This could be a good game for Kansas to look to its bench for an edge, especially if Self elects to stick with the same starting lineup he employed vs. Baylor and brings Malik Newman and Lagerald Vick off of the bench.

In their most recent game — an 88-80 home win over Oklahoma — the Cyclones utilized their bench for just 27 total minutes (spread over three players) and got three points on five shots to go along with four rebounds, three assists, three fouls and a turnover.

That's tame production even by Kansas standards this season. And whether it's Vick and Newman, Marcus Garrett and Mitch Lightfoot, or some combination of that group, the Jayhawks should expect to outperform ISU's bench. Doing so would go a long way toward helping the Jayhawks emerge victorious.

Mega Matchup

Devonte’ Graham vs. Lindell Wigginton

In the first meeting between these two teams, Iowa State freshman Lindell Wigginton used his muscular build and explosive quickness to dot the Jayhawks for 27 points in 40 minutes.

He made 10 of 20 shots, four of eight from 3-point range, and got the rim whenever he wanted while leading the Cyclones to the brink of an upset.

The Jayhawks knew going into that one that Wigginton was a talented player, but they'll have a much better idea of just how talented in the rematch. And because of that, they figure to give senior Devonte' Graham the task of trying to slow down the ISU freshman.

Asking him to guard the opponent's best player has been a season-long trend and has added to the wear and tear experienced by Graham, who has played all 40 minutes in eight consecutive games.

It's unlikely that he will check Wigginton the entire way. And, for what it's worth, Graham had an off shooting night (4-of-14) but still managed 11 points, nine assists and four steals in 37 minutes the first time he faced the ISU freshman.

Tonight figures to be as entertaining a battle as we've seen all year, with the crafty senior against the fiery freshman. Both players are as competitive as they come and both are likely to rise to the challenge of trying to keep the other in check.

Jayhawk Pulse

Although Iowa State certainly has had more intimidating rosters during recent years, playing inside Hilton Coliseum has never been easy for anyone in the Big 12.

Winners of their last four home Big 12 games — by an average of 13 points over the likes of Baylor, Oklahoma, Texas Tech and West Virginia — this group of Cyclones is playing with a ton of confidence and playing much better than its overall record might lead one to believe.

“They've got a lot of nice pieces and Steve (Prohm is) a really good coach and they run some clever stuff so we'll have to be very, very sharp on both ends,” Self said of KU's most recent challenge.

Although the game at hand has enough to command KU's attention, and with the league race tightening by the day, KU's focus could drift from issue to issue. Instead, Self remains locked in on helping his team improve every day and finding the confidence and chemistry that seems to be missing of late.

The Jayhawks lead the all-time series with Iowa State, 180-64, but are just 4-3 over the Cyclones in the last seven meetings. Las Vegas lists Kansas as a 6.5-point favorite in this one.

Probable Starters

No. 13 Kansas

G – Devonte’ Graham, 6-2, 185, Sr.

G – Marcus Garrett, 6-5, 180, Fr.

G – Svi Mykhailiuk, 6-8, 205, Sr.

F – Mitch Lightfoot, 6-8, 215, Soph.

C – Udoka Azubuike, 7-0, 280, Soph.

Iowa State

G – Lindell Wigginton, 6-2, 188, Fr.

G – Donovan Jackson, 6-2, 173, Sr.

F – Zoran Talley Jr., 6-7, 190, Jr.

F – Cameron Lard, 6-9, 225, RS-Fr.

C – Solomon Young, 6-8, 245, Soph.

Comments

Steve Zimmerman 8 months, 1 week ago

Agreed. Dok has to work harder cleaning the glass. IT IS A MUST. He has to get 10 or more rebounds each game. I've said this before. He has to be able to seal, to box out, be alert just like when he's a dominant force in dunking. Use the damn same speed. Be quick in establishing position. He's so strong he's got to use his force and power his way inside all the time. Go get those rebounds, Dok! Get those rebounds!!!!

Tim Orel 8 months, 1 week ago

With great power, comes great responsibility. Use your power for Good, Dok!, Not fouling or taunting the opposing team.

Steve Zimmerman 8 months, 1 week ago

Hopefully he won't keep thinking making those fouls - that's what seems to hinder him from fighting for the ball.

Earl Williams 8 months, 1 week ago

Kansas is currently sitting at 152th in rebounding for division 1 programs. It will take more Dok to improve that number . Basic fundamentals, ball goes up, find a man to block out.

Bryce Landon 8 months, 1 week ago

Kansas hasn't gotten a regular season sweep of Iowa State since 2014. Now would be an excellent time to get one.

Nobody wants this as bad as I do. I have always hated Iowa State, and now that I live in Iowa with a few Cyclone fans in my neighborhood, it'd be great to get another win over them and have bragging rights for the season.

Tony Bandle 8 months, 1 week ago

Bryce, I feel your pain. I have a brother and sister-in-law who I love dearly...except when they beat KU. Both are Cyclone alums and love nothing better than beating the Hawks. In fact, I think the hatred for the Hawks among ISU fans is right up there with their dislike of the Iowa Hawkeyes!!

Seems like the entire school has a thing about Hawks in general. :)

Marius Rowlanski 8 months, 1 week ago

Great comments. I've always believed that the KU/ISU rivalry has been underrated.

Would love to see a KU blowout but will be happy no matter how we win.

Bob Thompson 8 months, 1 week ago

It appears that Kansas is playing to not loose instead of playing to win. Not working.... It's hard to watch them play when you know they can do so much better. We might see the Kansas team of last month if they reach the point where they can't win the big 12 title, and start playing loose and fast.

Tony Bandle 8 months, 1 week ago

Loose as in not playing tight and well and Lose as in being defeated unnecessarily. But I totally agree with your message, Bob. I wish they'd just start flying up and down the court and let it rip......I think the results would be better.

Kent Richardson 8 months, 1 week ago

If we go 4 and 2 over these last six it will take TTU going 3 and 3 to get a tie.

This team has shown us it's colors, good and bad. Probably no surprises except maybe a one game breakout by someone. We absolutely have to play our best game or we go down. I'm not seeing someone pick up the slack on a reliable basis.

We better bring it tonight against a rival who always go above and beyond against us.

Tony Bandle 8 months, 1 week ago

If one of those losing end "3's" is against us, it would really help.

Bill Lamson 8 months, 1 week ago

Earl...you nailed it. Our lack of rebounding is killing us. We've probably lost the rebounding battle in more than 80% of our games and there's no excuse for it. Having coached for several years, I can say that rebounding is about one thing...EFFORT!! I don't care how tall the other guy is or how high he jumps, if you want to be a good rebounding team you have to put in the effort and we obviously don't. And I put a big part of the blame on Self. Rebounding is a mindset, and you develop that in practice through lots of reps and making it a point of focus. And to Tony's point about flying up and down the court...unfortunately we can't do that if we don't come down with a rebound. Each offensive rebound we give up is not just an extra possession for the opponent, but its one less chance for a fast break play for us. I watch our guys and I don't think there's one who excels at rebounding and demonstrates the desire and effort you need. They all just hope the ball comes to them or that they can jump higher than the other guy (Vick). That won't get it done. Put your butt into the other guy and back him out...it ain't rocket science. It's EFFORT!!

Robert Brock 8 months, 1 week ago

Rebounding is a matter of anticipation, recognition, blocking out, releasing & going after it.

It’s a skill thing. It’s a team thing. Azubuike needs a lot of work here - he is just not skilled.

Craig Carson 8 months, 1 week ago

this is a winnable game for KU, BUT Svi and Newman have got to break out of their shooting funks...ISU has all the confidence heading into this game, KU looks razzled...

John Brazelton 8 months, 1 week ago

What I see in all of our loses, is not valuing possessions near the end of games (6 minute left). We are extremely careless with the ball, not working for the best shot, throwing up 3s or trying lobs instead of moving the ball to the open man who has the best shot.

Ryan Zimmerman 8 months, 1 week ago

I've been tough on them this year...not a lot of confidence, but to me, it seems that they play harder when they are faced with tougher challenges. At KSU, at OU (yes lost but barely) and at WVU. I think this won't be as close and KU will pull it out.

74-64

Tony Bandle 8 months, 1 week ago

Gosh almighty Z-Man, I hope you are right!!!

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