Three Big Takeaways: Cyclones let big opportunity slip away vs No. 10 Kansas


Jacob Rice/Iowa State Daily

Tristan Enaruna sits on the bench during the Cyclones’ 70-61 loss vs No. 10 Kansas on Feb. 1.

Matt Belinson

AMES — T.J. Otzelberger didn’t have an answer as to why the Cyclones didn’t play up to their standards versus No. 10 Kansas Tuesday at Hilton Coliseum.

But it didn’t take long for him to feel like Iowa State was playing catch-up.

Otzelberger noted Kansas jumped on Iowa State from the opening tip, scoring 13 points in less than four minutes on 6-8 shooting.

Iowa State would never lead.

“It’s disappointing that we let that one get away in front of such a great crowd and what a great opportunity it would have been,” Otzelberger said postgame.

No. 10 Kansas took the victory 70-61 over No. 20 Iowa State, dropping the Cyclones to 16-6 overall and 3-6 in Big 12 play.

Iowa State’s paint presence? ‘Wasn’t very good’

On paper, the Cyclones’ formula for defensive success worked against Kansas – except for one crucial area: the paint.

Kansas made five three-pointers and finished with 22 turnovers. That recipe has become Otzelberger’s bread and butter.

But Kansas outscored the Cyclones 34-22 in the paint and controlled the game down low all night.

“We gave a little too much on the drives, they put us out of position,” Iowa State guard Gabe Kalscheur said.

The Cyclones’ style of defense leads to multiple rotations during a defensive possession, putting guards at the “goalie” position for the Cyclones — tasked with guarding the rim and denying points at the basket.

Multiple times throughout the game, Kansas big-man David McCormack was the main flow of the Jayhawks’ offense, spacing Iowa State out and forcing guards to play the “goalie” more often than not.

Iowa State couldn’t defend Kansas’ back-cuts, and the Cyclones’ rim protection was almost non-existent.

“Whether it’s our guards in that position or our frontline guys, we’ve got to count on more stubborn, physical goalie to make sure teams don’t score baskets at the rim,” Otzelberger said.

McCormack scored 14 points on 7-7 shooting and grabbed 14 rebounds — the second-most points he’s scored in Big 12 play.

Tuesday’s loss was the sixth time in Big 12 play Iowa State has been outscored in the paint.

“They only made five threes, and we turned them over 22 times,”  Otzelberger said. “That’s way too many points in the paint.”

“I think overall, our rim protection wasn’t very good.”

Opportunity wasted

Kansas walked into Hilton Coliseum facing adversity.

The Jayhawks were vulnerable — having lost by 18 at home to Kentucky on Saturday in the Big 12/SEC Challenge and falling from No. 5 to No.10 in the AP top-25.

And then, Ochai Agbaji, the Jayhawks’ best player and the Big 12’s leading scorer at 20.9 points per game, didn’t make the trip to Ames.

Agbaji finished with 22 points, shooting 8-15 from the field in Kansas’ 62-61 win over Iowa State on Jan. 11.

The Jayhawks’ senior guard didn’t play Tuesday night, leaving Kansas without one of the nation’s best guards and three-point shooters (46.4 percent).

But Iowa State couldn’t take advantage.

Kansas had four players with at least 13 points and made up for the absence of its offensive superstar. 

“To win without [Agbaji] I think speaks volume to these guys’ character,” Kansas Head Coach Bill Self said postgame. “Iowa State didn’t play great tonight. Hopefully, we had a little bit to do with that.”

Tuesday’s loss drops Iowa State to 3-6 in the Big 12, good for seventh place in the league standings.

Iowa State has lost the last six matchups vs. Kansas.

Another cold night from distance

It’s become more common to expect the Cyclones to shoot under 30 percent from three than over.

Tuesday night was another familiar sight, setting the Cyclones up for poor possessions and missed chances.

Iowa State finished 5-22 from three (22.7 percent), the fifth time the Cyclones have shot under 30 percent from three in Big 12 play.

Tre Jackson made the majority of the perimeter shots, going 4-6 from deep. The rest of the Cyclones went 1-16.

Kalscheur added to his 25 percent three-point shooting in Big 12 play with a 1-5 showing from deep, along with Tyrese Hunter, who went 0-3.

The Cyclones are shooting 32.5 percent from three this season.