Having already wrapped up the Big 12 regular season title, the program’s 12th consecutive, No. 1 Kansas entered Saturday’s game against No. 21 Iowa State looking to complete an undefeated run through the home portion of their schedule. The Cyclones were competitive throughout, but in the end the Jayhawks simply had too many options as they won 85-78 at Allen Fieldhouse.
Kansas outscored Iowa State 17-7 over the final 5:09, limiting the Cyclones to just one made field goal during that stretch. On Senior Day it was senior forward Perry Ellis who led the way offensively, scoring his team-best 22 points on shots from both inside and out while also grabbing seven rebounds. Bill Self’s team doesn’t lack for depth or talent, and both attributes were on display during the game’s decisive run.
Wayne Selden Jr. and Devonté Graham added 16 points apiece, and five different Jayhawks scored during the run that decided the outcome. While there can be a tendency to look for a headliner capable of taking over a game this time of year, there’s also great value in having multiple players capable of stepping forward on any given night. That’s a luxury Kansas has, and it’s one reason why they’re seen as a favorite to cut down the nets in Houston.
Kansas found quality looks offensively and took care of the basketball in the second half, shooting better than 58 percent from the field in the game’s final 20 minutes. That can wear an opponent down, especially one that lacks depth like Iowa State.
The Cyclones received good minutes from their front court, most notably Georges Niang and Jameel McKay as they combined to score 41 points. But point guard Monté Morris shot just 3-for-10 from the field in scoring his 13 points, and Abdel Nader was relatively quiet as well. Given how Kansas executes offensively, everyone has to be clicking on all cylinders if you’re going to leave Allen Fieldhouse with a win. But there are positives to be taken from this defeat if you’re Iowa State, most notably the play of McKay.
The senior forward, who’s an incredibly important figure for Iowa State as they look to make a run in the NCAA tournament, has been a bit of an enigma at times this season. There was the two-game suspension served last month, and there have been times on the floor where he wasn’t providing the energy Iowa State needs from the pivot to make up for their lack of interior depth.
If McKay plays as he can consistently, Iowa State has the tools needed to make some noise. They can win games with McKay being a minor (or non-existent) cog in the attack, but the task becomes a lot more difficult for Iowa State when that’s the case.
Kansas has no such question marks at this time, as they’re playing their best basketball of the season at the right time. Winners of 11 straight, the Jayhawks are fully capable of extending that streak into early April.