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AMES — If this Big 12 season has been any indicator, getting too high or too low after one game can spell trouble for anybody. Even Iowa State.
When some people on social media wrote No. 16 Iowa State off as a conference title contender less than two weeks ago, they were taking the exact opposite approach of the Cyclones. The cliché, 'one game at a time,' can often be heard following games, but in the Big 12, it's a way of life.
The Cyclones are winners of their last three conference games, but the most important game — just like all the others remaining on the schedule — become the focus. And the next game is a doozy.
'In league play you never really think about the streak, winning or losing,' said Iowa State coach Steve Prohm. 'It's just about getting your team better and better and that's always been my mantra. We've played well of late and we've got to try to get this one Monday and get some more rest.'
Iowa State will host a second-straight Big Monday game on ESPN, this time against No. 3 Kansas. The Cyclones (15-4, 4-3) moved one game out of first place in the conference after wins against No. 1 Oklahoma and at TCU, but the Jayhawks (16-3, 5-2) present their own challenges.
Kansas struggled to find a defensive identity in a road loss at Oklahoma State last week, but followed it up with a nine-point home win against Texas. The Cyclones and Jayhawks are both veteran-laden squads and because they have played six times — a 3-3 split — in the last two years, there aren't any secrets between the two.
'We know what they're about and they know what we're about,' said junior Matt Thomas. 'It's going to be a great atmosphere. I know our fans have already been camping out since last week; it's nuts. We have the best fans in the country. I know the team is excited, I'm excited and I'm glad we could get out of here (Saturday) with a win and now get ready for that game on Monday night.'
Frank Mason, Perry Ellis and Wayne Selden lead the charge for Kansas offensively and help the team to 49 percent shooting from the field and 43.8 percent from 3-point range. The Jayhawks are also one of the deepest teams in the Big 12, but Iowa State has been switching up defenses in game to change the offensive rhythm for its opponents.
TCU isn't a traditional offensive threat, but the Cyclones used man-to-man and zone defenses to hold the Horned Frogs to 39 percent shooting and 23 percent from 3-point range. Iowa State was able to avoid the trap-game scenario in Fort Worth, largely due to how it was able to limit the Horned Frogs offensively.
'If we're able to play zone, we're able to take some of that mileage off from just running around and chasing guys and save a little energy for the offensive end,' said junior Monte Morris. 'We're able to play our zone and shake things up for different teams because a lot of teams scout us just for man. If we throw the zone out there, it could definitely be a difference maker.'
Any difference maker Iowa State can identify, it will certainly use against Kansas to help dethrone the Jayhawks' bid for an 11th-straight Big 12 crown.
'Coach Bill Self is a hall of famer and he's got a great program and a great team,' Prohm said. 'Our guys have a lot of confidence and obviously Hilton is a special place to play. We're looking forward to it.'
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