Kansas received big-time efforts from multiple members of its starting lineup in holding off No. 8 Iowa State, 77-70, on Monday in a Big 12 conference clash at Hilton Coliseum as the dynamic freshmen duo of Andrew Wiggins and Joel Embiid showed how special they can be in a number of different ways.
It would have been acceptable for either freshman — or the young Jayhawks as a whole — to fold under the pressure of playing at Hilton Coliseum, but because No. 15 Kansas has played the most difficult schedule in the country, the Jayhawks came out in attack mode and led for most of the contest as they prevented Hilton Magic from happening.
For Wiggins, it was a breakout performance. Although the freshman forward scored a quiet 17 points and never got fully going on the offensive end, it was his 19 rebounds and overall intensity that really impressed on Monday night. It just seemed like for the first time all season, Wiggins put together a complete game in every single facet of the game. Wiggins was engaged on the defensive end, rebounded hard on both ends and attacked the basket both in transition and the halfcourt. Wiggins’ three-point shot still struggled (1-for-5) but he still hunted his offense with confidence.
Embiid was also a man among boys at times in the contest as well. The freshman center had 16 points, nine rebounds and five blocks as he showed his versatility on both ends of the floor with the way that we can move and run the floor. Embiid is one of the few players in the country that can making a jaw-dropping play on the defensive end and follow it up just as quickly with a ridiculous display of potential on offense.
Although Wiggins and Embiid imposed their will for much of the game, turnovers were still an issue for the duo, as they combined for 13 of them, but Kansas still earned the victory and Wiggins and Embiid are still freshmen playing in one of the toughest arenas in the country.
Not to be overlooked, junior point guard Naadir Tharpe was also tremendous. Wiggins and Embiid playing well means a lot for the Jayhawks, but they still need a steady contribution at point guard to be among the nation’s elite.
On Monday, Tharpe was steady and reliable, shooting 7-for-9 for 23 points and also added six rebounds and four assists to be the Jayhawks’ third wheel in the big road win.
When the Jayhawks get three of their starting five rolling like they did on Monday, they’re going to be tough to beat, and that’s not even mentioning acceptable outings from freshman guard Wayne Selden (seven points, six assists) and sophomore forward Perry Ellis (eight points, six rebounds).
When the Kansas starting five is producing at that level, they might be impossible to beat. When you couple that with holding Iowa State to only 4-for-25 shooting from the three-point line and there’s a lot to like about this Jayhawk win on the road.
Kansas outplayed a top-10 opponent in a difficult place to play and their two star freshmen and up-and-down point guard all played very good games. There’s a lot to like about Kansas’ chances to win the Big 12 if they continue to play the way they did tonight.