No. 3 Kansas Jayhawks (22-3 overall, 11-1 Big 12) vs. Iowa State (11-14 overall, 4-8 Big 12)
Time: 8 p.m. | Location: Allen Fieldhouse, Lawrence, Kansas
TV: ESPN | Radio: IMG Jayhawk Radio Network
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1. End it early
With five days between tonight's game against Iowa State and the next one — a monster matchup at Baylor on Saturday — the Jayhawks would do well to get some rest this week.
That’s particularly true for guards Devon Dotson, Marcus Garrett and Ochai Agbaji, who have been battling through nagging injuries for the past few weeks while also handling a heavy workload.
Because of the status of the current Iowa State roster, which is without injured guard Tyrese Haliburton for the rest of the season, the Jayhawks can actually get a jump on some of that rest, provided they take care of business early in this one.
There are no easy nights in the Big 12 Conference, but given the fact that the team KU just beat by 17 (Oklahoma) recently beat Iowa State by 29 points, there certainly is a chance that KU, a heavy favorite, could be in line for another runaway victory.
If that’s the case, and if KU builds a large lead by halftime, the second half of this one should, or at least could, feature Christian Braun, Tristan Enaruna and David McCormack playing big minutes.
That trio has averaged around 10 minutes apiece in recent outings and, in some cases, throughout most of the season. Doubling that against the Cyclones would send KU’s starters into their week of rest with a head start.
2. Azubuike gets aggressive
It’s hard to say that a player with 11 double-doubles on the season who is coming off a 15-point, 17-rebound effort a couple of days earlier needs to get more aggressive.
But Kansas coach Bill Self mentioned that about senior center Udoka Azubuike following Saturday’s win over Oklahoma.
Overall, Azubuike played great. He was active on the glass, went after the ball and blocked four shots while continuing to serve as a solid rim protector on defense.
But, on offense, the oftentimes automatic center shot just 6 of 12 from the field, well below his season and career averages, which typically hover around 70-75%.
Self said part of the reason Azubuike misfired on so many shots Saturday was because he hesitated a little. In this one, against a team without much of an answer for Azubuike’s size and strength, KU would love to see the big fella flush everything — or at least try.
“He missed some easy ones,” Self said after the win over Oklahoma. “I don’t know why he’s hesitating as much as he is now. He hesitated too much in the first half. I think he was trying too hard. His host family was all here, and they don’t get a chance to come watch him play much and I think he may have been pressing a little.”
Making matters worse for the Cyclones is the fact that KU leads the Big 12 in 2-point field goal percentage (50.8) and Iowa State ranks last in the Big 12 in 2-point defense.
3. More 3s, please
KU’s hot-shooting afternoon on Saturday tied for the most makes (11) from downtown in Big 12 play. And the Jayhawks’ 3-point percentage (50) against the Sooners was their second best showing of the Big 12 season.
The only time the Jayhawks shot better was back in January against Iowa State in Ames, Iowa, when they hit 52.6% from 3-point range.
The Cyclones rank last in the Big 12 in 3-point defense (37.2%) and KU, which has been searching for better and more consistent 3-point shooting throughout the season, could benefit from another hot day from the outside.
Iowa State offense vs. KU junior Marcus Garrett
The Kansas junior is on some kind of run defensively. Well on his way to winning Big 12 Defensive Player of the Year, and likely to compete for that honor on the national level as well, Garrett’s reputation as a defensive menace is well known throughout the conference.
With that in mind, it will be interesting to see how Iowa State coach Steve Prohm attacks Garrett when the Cyclones have the ball.
Do they go right at him? Do they try to get him a couple of fouls, which has plagued Garrett from time to time this season? Or do they put Garrett’s man off the ball and stash him in the corner, like Oklahoma did on a couple of possessions in the second half, in hopes of taking Garrett out of the action altogether and playing 4-on-4 against the rest of the Kansas defense?
Regardless of what they try, Garrett is a smart enough and savvy enough player to plug himself into the play from anywhere on the floor. If his stretch of high-steal games continues, it’s hard to envision ISU getting comfortable in Allen Fieldhouse with its best ballhandler and playmaker on the bench in street clothes.
KU enters tonight’s game still one game back of Baylor in the Big 12 race, with the matchup of the season looming.
The Jayhawks could put a little pressure on the Bears with a win tonight, which would pull them within a half game of Baylor ahead of the Bears’ matchup at Oklahoma on Tuesday night.
KU leads the all-time series with Iowa State 183-66. That record includes a 94-16 edge in games played in Lawrence, 53-10 inside Allen Fieldhouse.
KenPom.com, which ranks Iowa State No. 71 in the nation (and KU No. 1) has Kansas as a 17-point favorite in this one, with a win probability of 93%.
No. 3 Kansas
G – Devon Dotson, 6-2, 185, Soph.
G – Ochai Agbaji, 6-5, 210, Soph.
G – Isaiah Moss, 6-5, 208, Sr.
G – Marcus Garrett, 6-5, 195, Jr.
C – Udoka Azubuike, 7-0, 265, Sr.
G – Tre Jackson, 6-1, 176, Fr.
G – Rasir Bolton, 6-3, 183, Soph.
G – Prentiss Nixon, 6-2, 188, Sr.
F – Michael Jacobson, 6-9, 240, Sr.
F – Solomon Young, 6-8, 242, RS-Jr.