This is what KU (ver. 2010) is supposed to look like. Center Cole Aldrich recorded a double-double and swatted shots. Guard Sherron Collins was the toughest guy in the building with some toughness to spare. Guards Tyshawn Taylor and Brady Morningstar served as the glue, combining to record 14 points, 12 rebounds and plenty of defense in 45 minutes. Young post players Jeff Withey and Thomas Robinson combined to shoot 7-for-10 and pull down eight rebounds in 24 minutes.
Now just imagine Xavier Henry had his outside shot falling Saturday.
KU dominated Iowa State in almost every facet Saturday in a game that was a bit more lopsided than the score might indicate. That domination occurred at basically every spot on the floor, but it started down low:
• Aldrich displayed a level of efficiency KU fans have often seen from him. But Saturday, he upped his activity to match that efficiency, making for his first truly prolific performance since the Jayhawks' Dec. 22 victory against California.
• Forward Marcus Morris was outstanding, once again. Morris came close to hitting the one point per minute mark for the fourth consecutive game, pulled down seven rebounds and recorded two steals. He took 43 percent of KU's shots during his minutes and finished 8-for-16 from the field. On the season, Morris is producing 1.29 points per possession and turning an above-average 21.5 percent of KU's possessions into shots. KU has had high-usage/efficiency players (most recently Aldrich last season), but the last Jayhawk to exhibit offensive activity and efficiency in Morris' neighborhood was Wayne Simien. In his senior season, Simien generated 1.19 points per possession while shooting on 28 percent of the team's trips.
• And how about freshmen Jeff Withey and Thomas Robinson? Robinson's rebounding and eager offense wasn't a secret, but Withey came out of nowhere (or from the bench, at least) to score eight points in 12 minutes. The Arizona transfer looked athletic enough to hang with major-conference competition and fairly skilled for a youngster, although he might want to fine-tune the long jumper before trying it again in a game.
M.O.J. (Most Outstanding Jayhawk)
The honor could have conceivably gone to forward Marcus Morris for the fourth consecutive game after he scored 16 points in 19 minutes. Instead, center Cole Aldrich earned the award for his well-rounded effort in Ames.
Aldrich used 18 percent of the team's possessions on shots in a notably efficient manner. The junior went 8-for-11 from the field and finished at 76 percent eFG%. He displayed the rebounding and shot-blocking chops KU fans have come to expect, hauling in 37 percent of available rebounds and blocking nine percent of Iowa State's field goal attempts while in the game.
Aldrich contributed less than one point per possession in four of KU's final six non-conference games. Since then, Aldrich has produced better than one point per possession in three of four Big 12 games.
http://worldonline.media.clients.ellingtoncms.com/img/blogs/entry_img/2010/Jan/24/ald.jpg Cole Aldrich enjoyed one of his best games so far this season. Nick Krug/LJW Photo
Room for improvement
There's not much space for legitimate complaint if you're a KU fan. Iowa State's star forward Craig Brackins was a non-factor, Iowa State as a whole only managed 0.85 points per possession and the Jayhawks avoided turnovers (15.3 percent Turnover Rate).
Only two minor issues stood out:
• Iowa State forward Marquis Gilstrap was a beast. The senior scored 18 points on 12 rebounds in what was his fifth-best game of the season in terms of overall Efficiency.
• KU guard Xavier Henry has officially lost his feathery shooting touch. Between all the air balls and bricks Saturday, Henry was able to convert two of his 10 field goal attempts for four points in 19 minutes. Not pretty.
Hard Luck Line
This section is usually devoted to a KU player who suffers a tough shooting night or some turnover trouble. But given Craig Brackins' track history of success against KU, his mild performance Saturday earned him the nod.
Brackins scored 42 points against KU last season, coming close to breaking some Iowa State (and KU) records. This year, not so much. This time around the Cyclones' star forward scored as many points as he took shots (13), grabbed a negligible number of rebounds (1, or two percent of available boards) and didn't look like his team's best player.*
http://worldonline.media.clients.ellingtoncms.com/img/blogs/entry_img/2010/Jan/24/brackcrop.jpg Iowa State star Craig Brackins endured a tough afternoon. Nick Krug/LJW Photo
*Saturday's game — and Brackins' entire season — stand, in my mind, as a very good example of a player not taking the NBA's money at the right time. It's not that Brackins has been exposed as a fraud or won't still see the NBA's bright lights, but he's not his team's sole offensive option any longer. Gilstrap actually uses more possessions than Brackins does, grabs more rebounds than Brackins does, and shoots more efficiently than Brackins does.
The Bottom Line:
This is as good as it gets on the road in conference play. Iowa State isn't a world-beater, but the Cyclones aren't bad, either. Brackins and Gilstrap are both legitimate NBA prospects and Iowa State is among the nation's most dangerous teams from three-point range. KU managed to easily handle a hostile crowd and possible postseason (not NCAA Tournament) team.
Important? Of course. Ask Kansas State or Texas.