Hungry? No. 20 Iowa State is ‘starving’ for rematch with No. 10 Kansas


Collin Maguire/Iowa State Daily

Aljaz Kunc celebrates after hitting a three-pointer against the University of Kansas on Jan. 11 in Allen Fieldhouse.

Matt Belinson

Motivation won’t be a problem between No. 20 Iowa State and No. 10 Kansas Tuesday night at Hilton Coliseum.

The Jayhawks enter Tuesday’s top-20 matchup coming off an 18-point loss at home to No. 5 Kentucky on Saturday in the Big 12/SEC Challenge. The loss snapped Kansas’ 17-game winning streak at Allen Fieldhouse and marked the second-worst home loss in Bill Self’s 19 seasons at Kansas.

And for the Cyclones, Tuesday is a chance at revenge.

Iowa State dropped its first game against Kansas 62-60 on Jan. 11, despite leading 33-31 at halftime and a comeback attempt in the final two minutes.

The Cyclones aren’t oblivious to Kansas walking into Hilton Coliseum with something to prove. But they feel just as, if not more, ready for the matchup.

“I’ve heard a lot of things about when Kansas comes to town,” Iowa State forward Aljaz Kunc said Monday. “I heard sometimes it might get even crazier than the Iowa game.”

“They might come in hungry, but we’re going to come here tomorrow starving.”

Iowa State head coach T.J. Otzelberger views Tuesday’s game as another chance for the Cyclones to hone in on their identity, particularly when it comes to ball pressure and forcing Kansas into actions it otherwise would avoid.

The Cyclones turned the Jayhawks over 10 times in the first half on Jan. 11 and scored 17 points off the miscues, but managed to turn Kansas over just six times to the tune of nine points in the second half.

It’ll take urgency and a willingness to command the game for Iowa State and Otzelberger said it all comes back to getting 40 minutes of intense ball pressure to disrupt Kansas’ high-level guards.

“[I] feel like, no matter who we’ve played, when we’ve been the aggressor with that ball pressure and activity, we’ve been the team that things have gone our direction,” Otzelberger said.

Kansas has three guards who rank in the top-15 in the Big 12 in scoring, led by senior guard Ochai Agbaji. Agbaji is averaging a league-best 22.6 points per game in Big 12 play and is shooting 48 percent from three.

Izaiah Brockington, Iowa State’s leading scorer at 16.8 ppg, said Iowa State has to stay the course and make it a mission to slow down Kansas’ firepower.

Brockington, who was named Big 12 Player of the Week on Monday for the third time this season, said Kansas makes life difficult for teams who can’t stick to principles. The Jayhawks come into Tuesday ready to prove to the world they aren’t a fluke and Brockington said the Cyclones have to meet that effort head-on.

The senior guard for the Cyclones scored 26 points (11-20 from the field), including five points in overtime in a road win over Oklahoma State on Wednesday. He followed that up with a team-high 15 points and six rebounds vs Missouri on Saturday.

Come Tuesday night, Brockington said Iowa State has to want to get the job done.

“Gotta be more disciplined on defense, not lose sight of their key guys if they’re shooters. When we do get them to miss, we gotta finish with rebounds,” Brockington said. “We can’t give them too many second chance opportunities, hustle plays – things that will give them the momentum.”

The crowd at Hilton Coliseum could be an additional boost of energy for Iowa State, and Brockington knows it.

In the Cyclones’ last four home games against Kansas, Hilton Coliseum has sold out. Otzelberger said he’ll remind his players of the privilege to play at Hilton Coliseum and to embrace the atmosphere and meet the moment.

“They’ve shown up every game for us, every game,” Brockington said of Iowa State fans.

No. 23 Iowa State and No. 10 Kansas will tipoff at 6 p.m. Tuesday at Hilton Coliseum. The game will be broadcast on ESPN.