No. 6 Kansas looks to improve Big 12 record vs. Iowa State
A prize Kansas routinely claims is potentially slipping from the Jayhawks' grasp at a relatively early stage of the Big 12 schedule.
After capturing 15 conference championships in the last 16 seasons, the No. 6 Jayhawks (10-3, 4-2 Big 12) trail two Big 12 rivals rated even higher, No. 2 Baylor (4-0 in the league) and No. 4 Texas (4-1).
Kansas, coming off a Tuesday loss at Oklahoma State that snapped its record-tying string of 11 consecutive Big 12 road wins, returns home Saturday to face Iowa State (2-7, 0-5).
"We always have a goal each year to win the league," Kansas coach Bill Self said. "That goal has not vanished, but certainly it's getting to the point where there is less than zero margin for error moving forward."
Two characteristics that have often separated the Jayhawks from Big 12 challengers -- execution and toughness -- did not meet Self's expectations in the 75-70 defeat against Oklahoma State.
While David McCormack established season bests with his double-double of 24 points and 12 rebounds, Kansas only made 5 of 21 3-point attempts and allowed 37 fastbreak points.
Marcus Garrett, a key veteran who commands the Jayhawks' defense and can also run the point, attempted two ill-advised shots in the final minute before his errant inbounds pass in the final seconds wrecked an opportunity for a game-tying 3-pointer.
"We don't make other people play poorly," Self said. "We hope they play poorly, and that's not the way to live."
Preventing easy breakouts and defending the arc are two problems Kansas must address defensively. On offense, executing alongside a productive McCormack is essential.
Despite being an inside threat, McCormack shot worse than 50 percent in nine of the Jayhawks' first 10 games before averaging 20.3 points in the past three games.
Ochai Agbaji leads Kansas with a 14.7-point average. He connected on 4 of 9 shots from 3-point range against Oklahoma State, but the rest of the Jayhawks went 1-for-12.
Jalen Wilson averages 13.8 points, but he scored just 13 total points over the last two games. Wilson's team-high average of 7.8 boards fuels a positive rebounding margin (8.1). McCormack has boosted his scoring average to 12.1.
Iowa State enters the matchup coming off a weeklong layoff after Kansas State could not meet minimum roster standards, prompting a Wednesday postponement. Beginning with the game at Kansas, the Cyclones face three straight opponents currently ranked in the top 15.
Rasir Bolton leads the Cyclones with a 14.8-point average, and three other players average between 12 and 13 points per game.
Iowa State must play the remainder of the season without Xavier Foster after the 7-foot reserve required season-ending surgery this week for a nagging foot injury. With Foster out, George Conditt IV (1.2 points, 2.1 rebounds per game) could play more minutes.
"It's important for us to get paint touches, and one of the best ways to do it is through post feeds," Iowa State coach Steve Prohm said. "(Conditt) has got to be a presence around the basket, play with an unbelievable motor."
--Field Level Media
Updated January 15, 2021