It wasn't pretty at times, but what a difference just getting back on defense makes. Roughly a month after a loss to the Cyclones in Ames, Kansas became just the second team in the Big 12 to hold Iowa State under a point per possession. Iowa State, who came into the game as one of the best shooting teams in America, shot 45.1 percent on twos and 33.3 percent on threes as the Jayhawks came out with yet another strong defensive effort.
The Jayhawks also turned over the Cyclones an impressive amount. Monte Morris had four turnovers in the game, double his previous high for the season, and in all the Jayhawks forced turnovers on 18.2 percent of Iowa State's possessions, and had steals on 10.4 percent of them. Kansas struggled a bit in the other two areas, allowing the Cyclones to rebound 39.5 percent of their misses, and the foul edge was saved from being a massive win for the Cyclones only by the fact that Iowa State had to intentionally foul at the end of the game.
All that goes to show how important shooting is. The Jayhawks shot 52.4 percent from two, even though they shot just 51.7 percent in the restricted area, and an incredible 47.6 percent on threes. Some of that is due to some jump shooting luck, obviously, but the Cyclones really collapsed on drivers and dared the Jayhawks to beat them from the outside, and the Jayhawks complied. Kansas turned it over on 20.8 percent of its possessions, but a lot of that was when the game was out of hand, so I am not quite as worried. While Kansas's struggles against the press should cause some worry against West Virginia, there is a lot of difference between breaking a press late in the game when you've already won and having days to prepare for a team, especially when pressure is the only thing that should worry Kansas.
Kansas obviously didn't get a lot of offensive rebounds, just a third of their misses, but that was clearly due to sending three or even four guys back on defense to stifle Iowa State's transition game. It worked, and Fred Hoiberg didn't really have an answer for it. The game slowed down, and Kansas methodically worked into a good shot. The game sped up, and Kansas outran the Cyclones using their depth, athleticism, and endurance.
- Frank Mason killed Monte Morris. It was a slaughter. The ref stopped the fight in the third round and then Mason came back for more. In addition to Morris's 5 assist, 4 turnover day, Mason was 4-9 on twos, had 5 rebounds, 8 assists, and just 1 turnover. He deftly handled the ball through traffic, defended well, and did everything he needed to for Kansas to win. The one thing missing now is his jump shot, but if he keeps taking open threes he will start making them again.
- Speaking of destruction, Perry Ellis was 5-10 on twos, 1-3 on threes, and grabbed 6 rebounds. He also added 4 assists. I wouldn't say he (or anyone) defended Niang great, but Ellis did force a couple turnovers and made him work the hardest for his points.
- Wayne Selden had a "thank god he was on fire" night, making 5 of his 7 threes. However, he had four turnovers, and left Naz Long wide open for threes a couple times. He only got burned once or twice by it, but Long needs to be treated like Marcus Foster or Buddy Hield or Phil Forte, only Long is (or should be) easier to guard because all he does is shoot threes.
- Kelly Oubre looked to be back physically, and he started off hot for the Jayhawks with a dunk to open the game and a put back for the second bucket. In all he finished 5-9 on twos and 2-6 from three, and he added 5 rebounds, 3 assists, and 2 steals. I do wish he would stop taking wild runners in the lane, but to be fair to him most of them came when the offense was stalling a bit and they needed to generate shots from somewhere.
- Jamari Traylor was 2-3 from the field, missing a long two that almost made me break my TV, and had 3 turnovers, but he also had 3 steals and for the most part played pretty good defense.
- Brannen Greene missed both a three and a free throw somehow, but still was 2-3 behind the arc and 5-6 at the line. Greene is shooting 51 percent from three on the season, and 62.5 percent in conference play.
- Even when he plays poorly, Cliff Alexander makes an impact on the game. I agree with Self's decision to only play him 15 minutes given how poorly he guarded McKay, but Alexander still finished 2-2 and grabbed 5 rebounds in those 15 minutes. He also had 2 blocks and is back up to second in the Big 12 in offensive rating.
- Not to be outdone, Devonte Graham had another 4 assist, 0 turnover day, and also made his only field goal attempt of the game. As a result, Devonte Graham is your new Big 12 leader in offensive rating. He's also 3rd in assist rate and 2nd in turnover rate.
- Landen Lucas learned from his experience in Ames and had a very effective 14 minute shift. Lucas was 1-2 on twos (and got fouled on the one he missed but it wasn't called) and grabbed 6 rebounds in those 4 minutes. He also played some really nice defense inside.