Vanderbeken injury leaves Cyclones undersized, shorthanded

Jake Lovett

LAWRENCE, Kan. — Iowa State was already undersized.

Take away one of only two available regulars taller than 6-foot-6, and Fred Hoiberg’s lineups get small in a hurry.

Saturday in Lawrence, Kan., ISU forward Jamie Vanderbeken left the game with an ankle injury with eight minutes left in the first half, leaving a 6-foot-11-inch hole in the post for the Cyclones during their 89-66 loss to the No. 2 Jayhawks.

“It’s tough for us, especially as thin as we are, to have one of our key guys go down early in the game,” Hoiberg said. “It makes it tough.”

With the suspension of 6-foot-8 forward Calvin Godfrey, only Vanderbeken and freshman Jordan Railey were likely to see minutes in the paint for the Cyclones.

Once Vanderbeken went down, though, it wasn’t uncommon for Hoiberg to run four guards on the floor or even use 6-foot-6 Melvin Ejim as his big man.

With the Jayhawks playing three forwards, sometimes at the same time, a four-guard lineup rarely provided an advantage.

“I saw one time Jake Anderson is out there blocking out [7-foot center] Jeff Withey on the free throw line,” Hoiberg said. “He’s about half his size. We’re a little undermanned right now.”

The 7-footer Withey was only on the floor for nine minutes Saturday, but the Morris brothers, Marcus and Markieff, were once again a terror inside against the Cyclones.

After combing for 50 points and 24 rebounds, the twins from Philadelphia were quieter Saturday, only scoring 30 and grabbing 22 rebounds between them.

“The Morris brothers are really good, they were knocking down shots,” said ISU guard Scott Christopherson. “We’re letting teams be too comfortable right now.”

Christopherson and the ISU offense started trading baskets with the Jayhawks shortly after Vanderbeken’s injury, only getting outscored 60-54 over the game’s final 28 minutes.

“I thought Iowa State played pretty well when they spread it and drove it,” said KU coach Bill Self. “That way, they didn’t have to play through [Vanderbeken] as much. I thought that was a good adjustment by Fred.”

Going forward, things won’t get any easier for the undermanned Cyclones.

The next three games will take them on the road to No. 22 Texas A&M and No. 3 Texas and will feature a home bout with No. 19 Missouri.

Godfrey will return from his three-game suspension against the Aggies on Wednesday. After Saturday’s game, it was unclear how many of those would be played without Vanderbeken.

“Godfrey, that’s a big part of their team. He was unbelievable in the Baylor game,” Self said. “Then, you take away Vanderbeken, who’s arguably as a hard [to] guard as there is because of what he can do from the perimeter, that changes the whole makeup of their team.”