Cyclones stepping up a level for Kansas


Photo:Tim Reuter/Iowa State Daily

Guard Diante Garrett goes up for a shot during the second half of the game against Texas Southern. Garrett and Scott Christopherson lead the team in scoring with a total of 16 points for each of them.

Chris Cuellar

Going into Iowa State’s game at Nebraska, coach Fred Hoiberg felt his team could have been 15-0. The Kansas Jayhawks are 15-0.

Hoiberg is doing his best to restore a once proud tradition of defending the ISU home floor, known as Hilton Magic. The No. 3 Jayhawks defend their home, Phog Allen Fieldhouse pretty well. They’ve won 68 straight in their friendly confines.

The Cyclones don’t think losing at Nebraska on a last-second free throw Saturday was indicative of who they are, but it will take a supreme effort Wednesday.

“We’re going to have to play almost a perfect game to come out with a win,” Hoiberg said. “I was fortunate enough to be a part of four great games against Kansas at Hilton Coliseum and there is a little history to it. They’re always ranked in the top 10 coming in here, and I think them and Duke are the two best teams in the country right now.”

Diante Garrett, meet Josh Selby

If a point guard’s job is to create offense, Diante Garrett and Kansas’ Josh Selby are both pretty good at what they do. The superficial similarities end there, as Garrett is halfway through his senior season and hasn’t missed a start since his freshman season. Selby had a nine-game suspension from the NCAA to start the season after being highly recruited out of high school, and has been lighting up the scoreboard since putting on a Jayhawk uniform.

“The kid’s got a heck of a stroke, he’s a big-time talent and he’s very good with the ball,” Hoiberg said of Selby, widely considered to be an NBA draft pick after the season.

Garrett finally has the numbers and experience to indicate he can handle Selby. The lone four-year player on Iowa State’s roster is averaging a career best 17.1 points per game and is adding 5.8 assists per game.

“He’s a good player, and he started off in the first game just excellent,” Garrett said. “Everybody was expecting him to do well and he just came out and did his thing. He’s a real good player that can help Kansas get to a national championship.”

Selby has started four of the six games he has been available for, and hasn’t disappointed. Putting up 13.3 points per game in Kansas’ balanced and deep offense, and knocking down 15 three-pointers already, Selby even knocked down a game-winning three in his first collegiate start.

“He’s strong and he’s got a Big 12 body as a freshman,” Hoiberg said. “He’s a big-time player and we’ll have our hands full.”

Garrett is the one player who can put his teammates at ease about this game. Playing against the Jayhawks for the seventh time in his career, another game under the lights and national television can take the game to a whole other level. As long as he can escape his own past against Kansas (see above).

“I just gotta do whatever I gotta do to help my team,” Garrett said.

Defending the Jayhawks

The Cyclones have a scoring balance that they haven’t had in almost five years, with all five starters averaging double-digits in scoring. However, with such a limited bench the scoring average drops from double-digits to Calvin Godfrey’s 3.9 points on the statistic list.

Kansas doesn’t have to deal with any such problems.

“They’re always deep and they always have a lot of numbers to throw at you,” said ISU forward Jamie Vanderbeken. “We don’t have a lot but we do work hard and that’s all you can ask for.”

The Jayhawks have 10 players averaging above Iowa State’s sixth highest scorer, and the twin brothers Marcus and Markieff Morris sandwich Josh Selby as the three scorers hitting at least 10.

The Morris twins put up 29 points and 15 rebounds per game when put together, and have a plethora of guards to dish out to when things get packed in the middle.

“I have to play my game, and keep being aggressive and defend the twins,” Vanderbeken said. “I have to stay aggressive on the defensive end and just try my hardest.”

The Jayhawks were taken to overtime by the Big Ten’s Michigan over the weekend, as the Wolverines effectively used a 1-3-1 zone defense to trouble coach Bill Self’s offense. With a limited bench and efficiency at a premium, Hoiberg says he’ll take any defensive steps necessary to keep things tight with Kansas.

“If they go out there and make those shots that they didn’t make the other day, it’ll be tough to stay in a zone against a team like that, they’re capable shooters,” Hoiberg said. “It’ll be a feel thing for us. As thin as we are, you have to steal some possessions with the zone.”

Whatever method the Cyclones use to defend the Jayhawks, they’ll have to bring their best effort to slow down their blistering 84.3 points per game pace. Kansas is still undefeated for a reason.

“We were all wanting them not to lose to Michigan so they could come in here undefeated, and we could knock them off,” Vanderbeken said with a smile.