Turnover issues remain a concern after KU’s latest loss to Iowa State

Iowa State guard Tamin Lipsey (3) tries to steal the ball from Kansas guard Kevin McCullar Jr. (15) during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game, Saturday, Feb. 4, 2023, in Ames, Iowa. (AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall)

Iowa State head coach T.J. Otzelberger thought his team came up one possession short during the first meeting with Kansas back on Jan. 14, when the Cyclones suffered a 62-60 loss in Allen Fieldhouse.

The rematch was never in doubt, however, as Iowa State led for nearly 39 minutes of Saturday’s 68-53 affair inside Hilton Coliseum. And the biggest difference was Iowa State’s effort on the defensive end.

“From a mental focus standpoint, this is as strong as we’ve been to hold them to what we did,” Otzelberger told reporters after the game. “Our guys (were) just continuing to be focused on what they run and what we can take away.”

The Cyclones (16-6, 7-3 Big 12) quite literally took a lot away from the Jayhawks (18-5, 6-4 Big 12) on Saturday.

Kansas committed 20 turnovers as a team, posting a season-worst turnover rate of 29.7% in a loss that snapped a two-game win streak. Iowa State forced 11 turnovers in the first half alone after KU committed only a dozen in the first meeting between these two teams.

“I think that was the biggest thing today that we didn’t do in Lawrence is we were much more disruptive,” Iowa State’s Jaren Holmes said. “It was hard for them to get a rhythm due to our defensive pressure.”

It is no secret that’s how the Cyclones want to play, as they lead the country with a defensive turnover rate of 26.9%. But the truth is, they haven’t been as disruptive of late. Saturday marked just the second game they have posted a turnover rate of 22% or higher since that first meeting on Jan. 14.

The Jayhawks certainly played a part in what transpired on the court in the rematch, coughing up the rock on plenty of unforced errors. They were called for five offensive fouls alone, many of which were charges.

Freshman Gradey Dick, who was responsible for one of those offensive fouls on a fast-break layup, committed a team-high five turnovers while finishing with just seven points on 2-of-6 shooting. It was a stark contrast to the first meeting with ISU, in which he scored 21 points and hit five 3-pointers.

“Gradey didn’t have one of his better games at all,” Kansas coach Bill Self said. “I think a lot of times we let offense affect other parts of our game.”

Dick wasn’t alone in that regard, however. Kansas had five different players finish with more turnovers than made shots on a day where the team went 17-for-44 from the floor.

Jalen Wilson committed four turnovers while posting a game-high 26 points. Kevin McCullar Jr., Bobby Pettiford Jr., and K.J. Adams Jr. all finished with three turnovers. Ernest Udeh Jr. recorded two turnovers in just seven minutes of action.

“We let them speed us up,” Adams said.

The problem is that this has been a concerning theme in KU’s losses this season.

The Jayhawks are 122nd in the country with an offensive turnover rate of 17.8%, but that clip has been 22% or worse in every loss except the overtime defeat against Kansas State. That includes 23.9% vs. Tennessee, 24% vs. TCU, 22.6% at Baylor, and 29.7% at Iowa State. Kansas has been credited with 15 or more turnovers in four of its five defeats this season.

In 17 of KU’s 18 wins, this team has registered a turnover rate below 20% with the lone expectation being the game against Duke in the Champions Classic.

Perhaps there is some solace in knowing what the common theme is, but can it be resolved over the next month? That remains to be seen, though a short turnaround against Texas certainly doesn’t help. The Longhorns are third in the Big 12 in turnover rate since league play began and rank 27th in the country with a defensive turnover rate of 22.6%.

Kansas will play host to Texas at 8 p.m. Monday.

KU’s turnovers during Big 12 play

vs. Oklahoma State: 12

at Texas Tech: 12

at West Virginia: 12

vs. Oklahoma: 6

vs. Iowa State: 12

at Kansas State: 15

vs. TCU: 17

at Baylor: 13

vs. Kansas State: 9

at Iowa State: 20


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