Ames, Iowa — Iowa State has more going for it in tonight’s Big 12 matchup against Kansas than Hilton Magic. The Cyclones’ style of play also is one that can give the Jayhawks trouble.
Every year Bill Self’s Kansas basketball teams rank at or near the top of the nation in field-goal percentage defense. They get there by clogging up the lane with long, athletic bodies. Kansas defenders always help off their man about as well as anyone in the country. It’s a blessing, but against a team like Iowa State it also can be a curse.
The Cyclones flood the floor with long-range shooters from every position. Even if a defender’s scouting report says not to leave his man, that’s easier said than done for players so well drilled on lending help defense.
“I think the way Iowa state plays, and you could go back to Belmont, Richmond, those teams were getting off 32, 36 threes against us and I think a lot of it stems from how we play,” 10th year KU coach Bill Self said. “Even when we pressure we don’t pressure out as much as a lot of people do, especially to shooters. We’ve got to do a lot better job of that. But the biggest thing to me is ball-screen defense. How are we going to guard their open ball screens and not put us in a situation where you have to close out from great distances?”
In KU’s 97-89 overtime victory against Iowa State, played in Allen Fieldhouse on Jan. 9, the Cyclones attempted 38 three-pointers and made 14. Six different players hit at least one three, five players more than one.
Georges Niang, Iowa State’s 6-foot-7, 245-pound freshman center, will try to draw Kansas center Jeff Withey away from the hoop. Niang has hit multiple three-pointers in six games. In the first 1:50 of the thriller in Allen Fieldhouse, Niang gave the visitors an 8-3 lead by hitting two three-pointers and a two-point jumper.
Not that Iowa State is one-dimensional. The Cyclones made 4 of 24 from three against Baylor in Hilton and still won, 79-71. But Baylor isn't Kansas. If KU can keep the Cyclones from getting hot from beyond the arc, a ninth consecutive Big 12 title should come into clear focus for the Jayhawks.