The Day After: Eaten up in Ames
For 20 minutes or so on a cold, snowy Monday night in Ames, Iowa, the Kansas University men's basketball team appeared to be back.
The Jayhawks shared the ball, played with confidence, attacked relentlessly and never allowed 14th-ranked Iowa State to gain control of either end of the floor.
When Devonte' Graham blocked a Monte Morris drive to the rim that led to a buzzer-beating layup by Frank Mason, KU raced to the locker room up seven and in complete control.
Twenty minutes later, the shell-shocked Jayhawks walked off that same floor on the business end of a 20-point beating in the second half.
Iowa State 85, Kansas 72.
Forget the Big 12 race for a minute. This Kansas season is in trouble.
Don't get me wrong, it's not as if the Jayhawks losing to a Top 15 team on the road in a hostile environment is a reason to panic. Far from it. It's not easy to win in Ames and a bunch of much better KU teams in the past found that out the hard way.
The problem, however, is that KU now has lost three conference road games in a row and played five bad halves and just one good one during that stretch.
Sure, all three of those losses came in tough environments, but the way this Big 12 season is unfolding and the way this Kansas team is playing away from Allen Fieldhouse, does anyone really think things will get any easier on the road for the Jayhawks in the near future?
For all of the talk about KU's second big man spot and what a liability it has been, the Kansas guards have gotten a bit of a free pass during recent weeks. No more. Until Frank Mason, Devonte' Graham and Wayne Selden return to playing at the level they played during KU's hot start to the season, this team is going to struggle. On any given night, KU has proven it can overcome either rough shooting or poor defense. But when KU's perimeter players struggle in both of those areas, as they did on Monday night, the Jayhawks are much less likely to come out on top. It's hard to know how to fix this problem because it's not like the Jayhawks aren't trying and it's also not as if they're going to all of a sudden become quicker defensively. Coaching, effort and urgency all will play a role in figuring it out and with a handful of tough road games still remaining, the Jayhawks don't have much time to get it done.
Three reasons to smile
1 – It obviously did not last, but just about every time Iowa State closed the gap to three or four points and threatened to change the pace in the first half, Kansas had an answer. Whether it was a big shot from the outside, a drive to the rim in the half-court or an easy bucket by Perry Ellis, KU stayed composed and got just about whatever it wanted en route to a 43-point first half and 58 percent shooting. Credit Iowa State for changing things on their end in the second half, but KU just did not look at all like the same team in the second half.
2 – Brannen Greene showed a little bit of fight. Not only did the sharp-shooter knock down two of his four three-point tries, but he also grabbed four rebounds and dished three assists and all four of his boards were rebounds he had to fight for. Sure it was just one game, but given the way Greene played compared to the way Wayne Selden played, don't be surprised if you see Greene steal a few more minutes until Selden gets back on track.
3 – I try to avoid going with KU's leading scorer for one of the three reasons to smile, but Perry Ellis was too good in this one to ignore. Ellis made 10 of 18 shots and carried the Jayhawks offensively. He easily should have gotten 10 more shots than he did and, if he had, there's no telling what that could have done for KU's chances. Ellis looked unstoppable at times and he and Georges Niang, who many believe is a legit All-American candidate, went toe to toe against one another during the early stages of the second half in what was easily one of the more entertaining parts of the game. There are those who criticize Ellis and would like to see him do more defensively. But when you're delivering this kind of production on the offensive end, it's hard to give those complaints much attention. Without Ellis, Kansas would be in a world of hurt.
Three reasons to sigh
1 – Another Big 12 guard torched the Kansas defense as ISU's Monte Morris went for 21 points, 9 assists, 4 rebounds, 1 steal and 0 turnovers, and, according to KU coach Bill Self, “dominated” the game. Morris joins Oklahoma State's Jawun Evans, West Virginia's Jaysean Paige and Oklahoma's Buddy Hield and Jordan Woodard as the most recent KU opponents who have proven to be far too quick for KU to handle in the halfcourt. Oh, and don't let that final line from UT's Isaiah Taylor fool you either. Taylor missed a handful of bunnies or else he easily would've made this list, as well.
2 – It was not nearly as bad as the last time the Jayhawks were in Ames, but there were still far too many times when the Jayhawks got beat back down the floor by Iowa State after a made basket. Last year, ISU's retaliation buckets absolutely killed Kansas. On Monday, it was not nearly as rampant but Jameel McKay, Georges Niang and, of course, Monte Morris, got more than their share of easy buckets after catching Kansas napping. Officially, Iowa State outscored KU 12-2 in fastbreak points and most of those buckets helped the Cyclones hang close until they could unleash their run that won the game.
3 – Devonte' Graham looks a little lost, especially offensively. If the sophomore guard is not knocking down his jump shot — he was 3-of-7 on Monday night, including 1-of-3 from three-point land — he just is not making enough positive plays for this Kansas offense. Too often Graham looks wild and out of control when attacking the paint and other times he'll settle for his jumper too quickly or overpass when the pull-up is the right move. All of these are signs of a guy pressing too much and Graham would do well to go back to letting the game come to him and getting his buckets within the flow of the offense. On the defensive end, it's simply about pride. Self and dozens of other coaches often have said that guarding your man is as much about not wanting him to score and out-desiring a guy as it is technique.
One for the road
KU's second-half collapse at Iowa State on Monday night...
• Gave KU three-straight league road losses for the first time since the 2004-05 season...
• Made the Kansas-Iowa State series 177-63 all-time, including 24-21 in games played in Hilton Coliseum...
• Made Bill Self 368-82 while at Kansas, 575-187 overall and 22-7 all-time versus Iowa State (21-7 while at Kansas)…
• Made KU 2,169-835 all-time.
The Jayhawks will get some rest from this wild game before returning to Allen Fieldhouse on Saturday at 6 p.m. for a non-conference showdown with Kentucky in the Big 12-SEC Challenge. ESPN's College Gameday will be in Lawrence for the big game between college basketball bluebloods.
— See what people were saying about the KU-ISU game at Hilton Coliseum during KUsports.com’s live coverage.
More news and notes from Kansas at Iowa State
- Disconnected: Jayhawks melt down in 2nd half at Hilton Coliseum
- Keegan: Jayhawks lacking leadership needed to win on road
- Cyclones get defensive in second half to knock off KU
- Minutes crunch: Bill Self again relies on veterans
- Notebook: Monté Morris remains hot in win over KU
- Jayhawks lose at ISU, marking third straight road setback
- Keegan Ratings: Perry Ellis stays consistent amid road collapse