No. 14 Iowa State knocks off No. 4 Kansas in Ames

(AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall)
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Monté Morris finished with 21 points, nine assists and no turnovers and Georges Niang had 21 points of his own as No. 14 Iowa State picked up their third straight win on Monday night, knocking off No. 4 Kansas, 85-72.

It’s the fourth time in the last five games that Iowa State has picked off the Jayhawks.

Based on the box score, it may look like the Cyclones won this thing easily, but that certainly wasn’t the case. Kansas jumped out to a 24-14 lead in the first 10 minutes and more or less kept that margin intact through the first TV timeout of the second half. The Jayhawks were up 50-42 with 15 minutes left in the game before back-to-back threes from Matt Thomas and Morris sparked a 24-7 run that led to a game-winning 43-22 surge down the stretch.

And while Iowa State’s offense will likely get the credit, the turning point game on the defensive end of the floor.

Through the first 25 minutes on Monday, Kansas ran their offense to perfection. The ball was switching sides of the floor, the passing was crisp, the Jayhawks got the Iowa State defense moving and, as a result, they were able to attack close-outs and get open looks from the perimeter. It’s how basketball is supposed to be played.

In the second half, however, the Cyclones made the adjustment to try and keep the ball on one side of the floor. They played in passing lanes to deny ball reversals and they made an adjustment to their ball-screens coverages, and the end result was that Kansas’ offense became stagnant. The ball stuck in the hands of the point guards, the Jayhawks tried to go one-on-one on far too many possessions and hero-ball kicked in. A couple of turnovers turned into layups, the crowd got into the game and before Kansas could react, it was out of reach.

Iowa State had been lambasted for their defensive effort when they were 1-3 in Big 12 play, but they’ve really taken a step forward in the last week.

So credit Steve Prohm and Iowa State. They picked up another huge home win just a week after beating No. 1 Oklahoma in this same building, a winning streak that no only relieves the pressure that was mounting on Fred Hoiberg’s replacement but also keeps them just one game out of first place in what is bound to be a wild conference title race.

Speaking of which, I think it’s safe to say that Oklahoma is now the favorite to win the league, even if it’s not by much. The Sooners, the No. 1 team in the country, have played at Kansas, at Baylor and both games against Iowa State. They hold a one-game lead over the Jayhawks with a game left against Kansas in Norman.

Maybe I’m reading into it too much, maybe it’s just a hunch, but I have a feeling that when Oklahoma hosts Kansas on Feb. 13th, it will determine whether or not Bill Self’s streak of 11 straight regular season titles remains intact.