Cyclones strive to shake up season in Kansas


Iowa State lost its fourth-straight game at home against Oklahoma 82-76 on Saturday, Jan. 29.

Chris Cuellar

There can’t be a more fitting place to start a run of four straight games against ranked opponents than Phog Allen Fieldhouse in Lawrence, Kan.

Iowa State has a big opportunity to shake up its season against No. 2 Kansas on Saturday. A win at the historic home of the Jayhawks (23-1, 8-1) would end a six-game losing streak, break an 11-game losing streak to Kansas and give the Cyclones (14-10, 1-8) some much-needed confidence they haven’t shown in recent weeks.

“I’m excited about going in there, it’ll be a challenge and I think our guys are excited,” said coach Fred Hoiberg. “The big thing is we need to go out and get off to a good start. We dig ourselves a hole and then you’ve got to find a way to dig out of it. Our crowd was phenomenal, but we’re not going to have that support this time in Lawrence. It’s a very difficult place to play, as hard as anywhere in the country.”

Just a month ago at Hilton Coliseum, Hoiberg’s Cyclones played Kansas to a tight 84-79 loss and bounced back just days later with their only Big 12 win over Baylor. After the game, the Cyclones all agreed they didn’t believe in moral victories but holding the highly-ranked Jayhawks until the end gave the squad confidence that this recent skid has deteriorated.

“We’ve got to come out and be the first to be aggressive,” said guard Diante Garrett. “If we come out and show that we can hang them and punch them in the mouth, just play as smart as we can we can stay in the game as long as we want to.”

One thing that wasn’t close Jan. 12 was Kansas’ domination in the post. Garrett was one point short of his career high with 27 points, but KU post players Marcus and Markieff Morris combined for 50 points and 24 rebounds.

The Jayhawks finished with 16 more points in the paint than the Cyclones and out-rebounded Iowa State by 13.

“They’re obviously very talented and very well coached,” said guard Scott Christopherson. “They’re going to make shots and make plays over the course of the game, you gotta try not to give them anything easy. Any time you’ve got guys that talented, you don’t want them to give them any easier baskets and get their confidence going, because then it can be a long night.”

Since the start of the Big 12 season, Iowa State has had major struggles with defending efficiently. In the first few conference games, the Cyclones would just get off to slow starts. Now, the problem is defending consistently, as three of Iowa State’s last four opponents have shot more than 50 percent from the field.

The fact Kansas is No. 1 in the nation in field goal percentage, that’s potentially salt in an open wound.

“We just need to try and make it tougher on them,” Hoiberg said. “We’ll have to mix in some different defenses, and we have to keep them off the boards. They just don’t have any weaknesses, they’re playing at a very high level right now and we’ve got to go in there and play smart to give ourselves a chance.”

As improbable as it sounds that Iowa State could end its current losing stretch at one of the toughest places to play in the country, the Cyclones have far and away been the best road team at Allen Fieldhouse. Iowa State is 3-11 at the old gymnasium since the Big 12 Conference was formed, with every other conference foe combining for just 5-97 when visiting Lawrence.

“Personally, I love it,” Garrett said. “The crowd is there before the shoot-around begins, it’s crazy. The legends that have been through there, I like being a part of it.”

Additionally, this will be the final game of freshman Calvin Godfrey’s three-game suspension.