The first half Wednesday night was frustrating to watch. We never were able to pull away, as the Cyclones always stayed just close enough to keep it to a ten point deficit at halftime. But in the second half, finally, we were able to jump ahead and never look back, piling up points as our defense started to improve. It wasn't an incredible difference, the Cyclones' mindset ended up being the biggest change between the two halves.
In the first half, Iowa State stuck to the gameplan, walking the ball up the court and slowing down the game. They completely abandoned their offensive rebounding game, instead opting to send three guys back with each and every Cyclone shot, not allowing the Jayhawks to get their fast-break offense to get off the ground. Of course, this limited the Clones to only one shot for every trip down the court, and unless you shoot lights out, that isn't a way to win. They didn't, making only 19 of 61 shots, good for only 31%. Of course, many of those missed shots were rushed, thrown-up-there three pointers taken in the second half as a last-ditch effort to get back in the game, as they fired up 28 threes in all. Twenty. Eight. Threes.
Here are some quickie thoughts on tonight's demolition of the Cyclones, more on the game tomorrow.
- Darnell Jackson is a flat-out beast. A beast. He has to be the front-runner for Most Improved Player of the Year in the Big 12, if not the entire country, with how he has completely changed how he plays between last season and this one. You want a reason why we are undefeated? Look at #32. He did whatever he wanted to tonight, making 9 of his 14 shots on his way to a double-double, 21 points and 11 boards. 4 of his 11 boards were on the offensive glass, meaning he actually had to work for those. The other seven he was mostly fighting only fellow Jayhawks, the Cyclones rarely even made an effort for offensive rebounds. In any case, he is the emotional leader of this team, hands-down, and it will hurt when he leaves this season.
- Staying down-low, Darrell Arthur had about as good of a game as he has had all season. Only 1 rebound, he has certainly done better in that department, but he played solid defense and his shot was on all game long. This is the kind of game that endears him to NBA scouts, a 6'9" kid who runs the floor, can create his own shot and can make just about anything inside 15 feet. He shot 8-13 from the field, meaning the big-man combo of DA and DJack to shoot 17 for 27, a pretty good percentage.
- I'm not really sure why, and the box score doesn't support it, but I just didn't get a good vibe from any of our guards tonight, save Mario Chalmers. Brandon Rush seemed a little off all night long, not really sure why, and Sherron Collins shot a tremendous 1 for 8. Russell Robinson had a good game, I guess, going 4 for 5 for 11 points, but he also turned the ball over a couple of times (read: 4 times). What makes this 19-0 start all the more impressive is the fact that SC has been a small factor in it so far, with his injury and everything. Once he comes back 100% healthy, just watch out. We still have plenty of room to grow, and it all resides around #4.
- I know that Connor Teahan, in his one shot attempt, came up long but I loved the way he played tonight. He played like it was the final 2 minutes of a NCAA Tournament game, like every single loose ball could have been the difference between winning and losing. Obviously, all of the end-of-the-bench kids want to be out on the floor, it is there only chance to see game action against Big 12 opposition. But Teahan actually looked like it, going harder than anyone else in the game. With everybody we could lose this year to the NBA and graduation, plenty of rotation spots will be available. I expect Connor Teahan to squeeze himself in there somewhere, he has looked more impressive than more balley-hooed incoming recruit Tyrell Reed.
- Going back to tonight's game, the Cyclones really have a player in Wayne Johnson. He is a scorer, and even when he missed you could tell. He carried himself the right way, shot the right way, everything. Even on his misses, it seemed as if it "almost" went in, kind of like Brandon Rush does. I will be scared to play him up in Ames.