Game day breakdown: No. 3 Kansas at Iowa State
photo by: Nick Krug
No. 3 Kansas Jayhawks (11-2 overall, 1-0 Big 12) at Iowa State Cyclones (7-6 overall, 0-1 Big 12)
Time: 7 p.m. | Location: Hilton Coliseum, Ames, Iowa
TV: Big 12 Now/ESPN+ | Radio: IMG Jayhawk Radio Network
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Keys for Kansas
1. Handle Hilton
Tonight’s matchup will mark the first game inside Hilton Coliseum for three of the nine players in KU’s regular rotation.
And four others have played there just once, for a total of 52 combined minutes, during their college careers.
That leaves Marcus Garrett, and, to a lesser extent, Devon Dotson as the lone Jayhawks who truly know what the team will be walking into when they cross the border into Iowa and warm up for the second game of the 2019-20 Big 12 season.
Kansas coach Bill Self owns an 11-5 overall record in games played in Ames and the Jayhawks are 6-4 against the Cyclones in the last 10 meetings at ISU.
Even with the school still on winter break, Hilton Coliseum figures to be full of rabid Iowa State students ready to get a piece of the Jayhawks. From constant cheers and jeers to comical signs and unrelenting noise, the Cyclones’ home arena for years has been known as one of the toughest places to play in college basketball. And it always seems just a little more intense when the Jayhawks come to town.
“It is a tough place,” Self said of the venue known for “Hilton Magic.” “(But) that’s been one of our more successful away venues that we’ve had. That didn’t really translate as much in the last 10 outings, but we’ve actually done OK. We haven’t killed it by any stretch, but we’ve had some good performances up there. … We’ve always enjoyed going up there and playing. I just think both teams enjoy playing each other.”
Freshmen Christian Braun and Tristan Enaruna, along with sophomore Ochai Agbaji, who was still planning to redshirt when KU played in Ames last season, will be getting their first taste of Hilton Coliseum tonight. And upperclassmen Udoka Azubuike (22 minutes in a 2017-18 win) and Silvio De Sousa (3 minutes) will be playing on the Cyclones’ home floor for the first time since the 2017-18 season.
That was the only time senior grad transfer Isaiah Moss played there, as well. And he was a sophomore at Iowa for that one.
There’s something to be said for letting these guys experience the environment themselves and not getting them too psyched out about it before they arrive. And Self went that route during the lead up to this game.
“He hasn’t said much about it,” Agbaji said Tuesday. “But I know the guys that have played there on our squad know how it’s going to be, know how turned up it is. But it should be a good game and good atmosphere.”
2. Right the rebounding ship
The Jayhawks gave up a whopping 21 offensive rebounds to West Virginia last weekend, which played a huge role in the Mountaineers giving Kansas a scare in that one.
The Cyclones are in nowhere near the same position to do that tonight, and the Jayhawks should be able to flex their muscles on the glass and put last Saturday’s rebounding nightmare out of their minds for good.
Iowa State enters this one ranked 298th in the nation in giving up 31.7% of available offensive rebounds to its opponents. That just so happens to be the exact same percentage of available offensive rebounds that the Jayhawks gain (75th in the country), so you’re looking at a strength for the visitors against a weakness for the home team in this matchup.
But it’s not just the offensive glass where KU will put its focus in this one. The Jayhawks are averaging 38.5 rebounds per game, which is 2.3 boards per outing better than their opponents.
Iowa State, meanwhile, has played to a rebounding deficit of exactly the same number, being outrebounded 2.3 per game.
Senior center Udoka Azubuike is riding a career-best streak of three consecutive games of double-digit rebounds and if his teammates are up for helping him out on the glass, KU’s size, length and athleticism could control big chunks of this game.
Although he had not addressed the tough road environment by practice time Tuesday, Self said he would and even referenced KU’s recent rebounding issues against WVU while doing it.
“We’ll talk about it,” Self said of how to handle playing at Hilton Coliseum. “But hopefully when we talk about it, it will maybe digest and soak in a little bit better than it did when we talked about how physical West Virginia can play.”
3. Defend the 3-pointer
Traditionally, Steve Prohm’s teams have been made up of gunners who can get red hot on a moment’s notice and bury you with 3-point shots from all over the floor.
Although this team — outside of Haliburton — is not quite as scary shooting the ball as some of Prohm’s teams in the past, the Cyclones are not afraid to launch it.
ISU has six players who have taken at least 24 3-point attempts this season. The good news for Kansas is that just two of those players — Haliburton at 42.5% and Michael Jacboson at 33.3% — are shooting better than 30% from 3-point range for the season.
Still, with the way KU’s past opponents have been able to find open 3-point shots against the Kansas defense, this has to be an area of emphasis for the Jayhawks heading up to Ames.
Although KU opponents once averaged close to 50% of their shots from 3-point range, that number has now dropped down to 39%. But that’s still above the national average and the 17th highest percentage in the country.
The Cyclones have hit more than 10 triples in a game three times so far this season and have hit 28 of 57 3-pointers (49.1%) over the last three games.
KU junior Marcus Garrett vs. Iowa State sophomore Tyrese Haliburton
Last weekend in a road loss to TCU, Haliburton recorded the sixth triple-double in Iowa State and just the 17th in the history of the Big 12 Conference.
He scored 22 points, tallied 12 rebounds and dished 10 assists and did it all with the kind of flair that was kept somewhat under wraps a season ago because of the number of talented players around him.
This year, Haliburton has been asked to do more and has happily obliged.
“To me, Haliburton is playing to the level that we all knew he would,” Self said. “We thought he was one of the best guards in the country last year as a freshman. He’s a terrific prospect. He’s long, he’s got great hands and certainly can shoot the ball from range. There’s a reason why he’ll be a high draft pick.”
So what will Kansas do to slow him down? Well, hoping he misses a few shots is part of it. But the other part of it includes a heavy dose of one of the best defensive players in the conference — Marcus Garrett.
Garrett, who would guard LeBron James and his 10-year-old cousin with the same intensity, is coming off of a game in which the 6-foot-5, 195-pound Garrett had to guard 6-10, 255-pound forward Derek Culver.
“I’ve never asked him what he prefers,” Self said of Garrett’s defensive assignments. “We just put him on what we need. … We’ll switch a lot, but I would imagine he and Devon (Dotson) both would get the lion’s share of the work against Haliburton.”
Although revenge will not play a big role because both teams look drastically different than they did a season ago, the Cyclones and Jayhawks are meeting for the first time on the heels of ISU winning last season’s series 2-1, including a victory in the Big 12 tournament title game.
To make matters worse for Kansas, the first matchup of the 2019-20 season is on the road, where, as KU coach Bill Self said, “They’re always at their best when we come to town.”
But this is a clash of two teams in very different situations. The third-ranked Jayhawks are two possessions away from being unbeaten and the clear-cut No. 1 team in the country. And the Cyclones are still trying to figure out what they have on their roster.
That’s not to say Kansas is a complete product just yet, but with Dotson, Azubuike, Garrett and Agbaji, the Jayhawks have a much more stable base from which to work.
KU leads the all-time series with Iowa State 182-66. That record includes a 70-40 KU advantage in games played in Ames (26-22 at Hilton Coliseum) and a 37-15 mark in the Big 12 era along with a 26-10 mark under Self.
KenPom.com, which ranks Iowa State No. 55 in the nation (and KU No. 2) has Kansas as a 7-point winner in this one, which certainly meshes well with recent history.
Eight of the last 13 meetings between these two programs have been decided by 7 points or fewer and six of those eight have been decided by 5 points or fewer.
No. 3 Kansas
G – Devon Dotson, 6-2, 185, Soph.
G – Ochai Agbaji, 6-5, 210, Soph.
G – Marcus Garrett, 6-5, 195, Jr.
F – David McCormack, 6-10, 265, Soph.
C – Udoka Azubuike, 7-0, 265, Sr.
G – Prentiss Nixon, 6-2, 188, Sr.
G – Rasir Bolton, 6-3, 183, So.
G – Tyrese Haliburton, 6-5, 175, So.
F – Solomon Young, 6-8, 242, Jr.
F – Michael Jacobson, 6-9, 240, Sr.