AMES — Iowa State trailed No. 13 Kansas 78-66 with 3:08 left in Tuesday’s game.
It looked like the Cyclones were going to pack it in and fold.
“We’ve been down 12 to 14 the last couple of weeks and we broke,” ISU Coach Steve Prohm said. “We’re down 12 at the last media timeout and we’re at the free-throw line to cut it to three with about 25 seconds left. I’m proud of our guys and the way we finished the game, but we weren’t good enough on the defensive end.”
Iowa State’s comeback bid came up short against Kansas in Hilton Coliseum. The Cyclones lost 83-77, in large part because of simple, correctable mistakes.
Iowa State (13-12, 4-9 Big 12) had no answer for Kansas’ Udoka Azubuike. The big man shot 9 of 10 from the floor, scoring 19 points. Kansas (20-6, 9-4) ran the same back-screen alley-oop to Azubuike two times in two minutes.
“It’s frustrating because, defensively, we weren’t good enough to win this game,” Prohm said. “I know it and our guys know it.”
Iowa State big man Cameron Lard said they didn’t communicate well enough to stop it.
Kansas Coach Bill Self said it’s one of the easiest plays in basketball to run. It looks fancy, but when a team has a player as big and athletic as Azubuike, who’s 7 feet and 280 pounds, it’s simple.
“It’s probably the easiest pass a human being can make,” Self said. “You can throw it anywhere if a guy is big and athletic, he’ll go catch it. All you need is just a little space to be open. That’s an effective offensive play for us.”
The Cyclones’ big men found similar success as Aubuike. Lard had 19 points on 7-for-11 shooting and 11 rebounds and Solomon Young had 12 points on 5-for-7 shooting and seven rebounds.
But Prohm wanted to get more easy post touches, especially for Lard.
“We have got to throw it in there,” Prohm said. “Play out of the post. Go inside out and then you have opportunities for Lindell (Wigginton) and Donovan (Jackson). (Lard’s) shooting 60-something percent from the floor, and they’re having a tough time guarding him.”
Iowa State had a hard time getting its dynamic guards going the whole game. Jackson and Wigginton combined to shoot 0 of 6 from the field in the first half.
Wigginton finished with 12 points on 3-of-12 shooting from the field and 1-of-7 shooting from 3-point range. Jackson finished with three points on 1-for-9 shooting and 1-for-6 shooting from beyond the arc.
Prohm believes that just a little better performance from each of them would have given the game a chance to go the other way.
“You just have to make two or three (shots) and it’s a different game,” Prohm said.
On top of his shooting woes, Wigginton had five turnovers. Lard, Iowa State’s other standout freshman, also had five. As a team, Iowa state had 12 turnovers that led to 21 Kansas points.
“When those guys are good, we’re tough to beat,” Prohm said. “They were good in moments tonight, but we needed them to be very good. That’s just part of it. They’re easily correctable plays. Turnovers led to baskets.”
The Cyclones’ biggest lift came from guard Nick Weiler-Babb, who came off the bench.
He played 22 minutes in his first game back after missing four straight games with knee tendinitis. He scored 14 points on 5-of-7 shooting, grabbed eight rebounds and dished out five assists.
ARTICLE CONTINUES BELOW ADVERTISEMENT
“I thought he did a good job,” Prohm said. “Look at his stat line, a terrific stat line. I was going to wait to play him until I thought we needed him. I thought we needed him and I let him go from there. If he needed to get out or couldn’t go, then he was going to let me know.”
Weiler-Babb said his biggest concern going into the game was trusting his knee. Would it be able to handle the pressures from cutting and jumping? He tested it before the game and it felt good enough to go.
Even though he played well, Weiler-Babb was still critical of his performance.
“I didn’t play well enough. We lost,” Weiler-Babb said. “I take full responsibility as a point guard. It felt good to be out there but we didn’t win. That’s never a good feeling.”
l Comments: firstname.lastname@example.org