Kansas earned a huge Big 12 home win on Monday night as the Jayhawks outlasted Iowa State for an 80-76 win. Following a Saturday road loss at West Virginia, there were questions about the Jayhawks’ ability to close tight games following some recent late-game mishaps. But thanks to a key defensive adjustment and a strong performance from a Player of the Year candidate, the Jayhawks stayed right in the mix in a crowded Big 12 race.
Here are three takeaways from the Kansas win on Monday night.
Defense was a huge part of the Kansas comeback and eventual win
By switching in the second half, and adjusting to Iowa State’s movement-heavy offense, Kansas was able to go on a 14-0 second-half run and take a solid lead in the second half before eventually going on to win.
The first half, Kansas looked sluggish on the defensive end, as they couldn’t seem to stay with the Cyclone offense. When head coach Bill Self adjusted in the second half by switching at all positions in some smaller lineups, it changed the game for the Jayhawks.
Gaining confidence by getting stops in the second half, Kansas translated that into offense. That run eventually helped them gain control of the game. Making plays on the defensive ended also started to get slow-starting guys like Marcus Garrett (16 points) and LaGerald Vick (14 points) when they didn’t have a lot fall for them early.
Kansas didn’t have the start they wanted. They looked hungover from the road loss two days before. But the halftime adjustments and renewed commitment to the defensive end ignited the Jayhawks on both ends of the floor. A team that has struggled to close some games got some key stops when they needed them.
If Kansas can defend like that, and get some timely stops, then they can stay at the top of the Big 12 race.
Iowa State’s remains a dangerous team despite the loss
The Cyclones might have fallen on Monday night. Looking at things long-term, Iowa State held a halftime lead in this game, rallied to tie the game in the second half once they fell behind, and still ended up with a 1-1 season-series matchup with Kansas after a blowout win at Hilton.
The Cyclones haven’t shown nearly enough reliability to be considered a major top-10 team. They also haven’t been fully healthy enough to figure things out for this season. All of that being said, the Cyclones still remain one of the nation’s most dangerous teams because of their offense. Iowa State’s ability to have four or five guys in every lineup who can score is a huge help.
Marial Shayok (26 points), Talen Horton-Tucker (16 points) and Michael Jacobson (12 points) all made some key shots in this one. And Lindell Wigginton (three points) and the rest of the rotation outside the starting five provided next to nothing.
If the Cyclones get a night where more than a few guys are clicking, then they could be a terrifying team to face in a tournament-style scenario.
Kansas forward Dedric Lawson closed this game like a Player of the Year candidate
On a night where many of their key players struggled, the Jayhawks got a huge, potentially signature, performance from junior forward Dedric Lawson. Coming up with 29 points and 15 rebounds on 13-for-17 shooting, the forward looked simply unstoppable while displaying ruthless efficiency.
But most importantly: Lawson came up with clutch plays on both ends of the floor for a Kansas team that desperately needs help closing.
Making a huge block on a Wigginton dunk attempt with under a minute left, Lawson stopped Iowa State from closing the game to within one point as the play also ignited the home crowd. Following that, on the offensive end, Lawson’s three-pointer with a little under 30 seconds left made it a five-point game and proved to be a major difference in a tight game.
Kansas needed this type of performance from Lawson on a sluggish night and he delivered in a huge way. While others like Zion Williamson and Grant Williams are ahead of Lawson in the Player of the Year race, if he keeps playing like this, he’ll quickly re-join the top conversation.