Chalk it up: Cyclones dominate second half to storm past Jayhawks

Senior Jameel McKay jumps for the tip-off during a game against the Kansas University Jayhawks on Jan 25. The Cyclones would go on to win 85-72.  

Chris Wolff

Some ISU fans braved the winter weather for an entire week ahead of ESPN’s Big Monday matchup between Iowa State and Kansas on Monday night. But Cyclone fans would have to wait just a little longer in Iowa State’s 85-72 victory to see what they came for.

No. 4 Kansas (16-4, 5-3 Big 12) took control of the game in the first half, while No. 14 Iowa State (16-3, 5-3 Big 12) struggled on both sides of the ball, giving the Jayhawks a seven-point halftime lead and ISU fans plenty of frustration.

The Cyclones struggled to make a run at the reigning Big 12 champions, as they crept back into the game and pulled within two points with 15 minutes to go.

The run Iowa State was waiting for didn’t arrive until the nine-minute mark, but it was well worth the wait. The Cyclones stormed past the Jayhawks with an 11-0 run, taking their first lead of the game, and never looked back.

“Under the 16 (minute media) timeout, they dominated the second half,” said Kansas coach Bill Self.

Iowa State outscored Kansas, 49-29, in the final frame and shot 64.3 percent from the field in the half to blow past a top-five team for the second consecutive Monday.

In the post-game press conference, ISU players couldn’t seem to agree on who provided the spark for the Cyclones’ huge run.

“We go how he goes,” said foward Georges Niang of guard Monté Morris, who scored 21 points and dished out nine assists. “That guy has carried us this whole season.”

Self agreed with Niang’s assessment, saying Morris “dominated.” 

Morris, however, was quick to give credit right back to Niang, who scored 19 points, 15 of which came in the second half after Niang struggled in the first half.

“We needed to get our best player going, which is Georges,” Morris said. “He’s our best offensive player and when he’s got it going, we’re hard to guard.”

Niang and Morris are pivotal pieces for an ISU team that has now beaten three top-five teams, according to this week’s AP poll: No. 1 Oklahoma, No. 3 Iowa and No. 4 Kansas.

But they had plenty of help Monday night.

“Huge defensive plays,” Niang said of forward Abdel Nader, who Niang called the team’s spark. “That’s Abdel’s MO. He just wants to be the guy to guard the other team’s best guy and really get out there and disrupt things.”

Nader poured in 17 points, including several huge buckets down the stretch for Iowa State in addition to his stout defensive effort. Matt Thomas hit three 3-pointers that killed Kansas’ momentum.

Self also praised forward Deonte Burton for coming off the bench and making it difficult for his team. Despite all the individual praise, it was actually the collective defensive effort in the second half that sealed the deal for the Cyclones.

“We weren’t good enough defensively to win the game in the first half, and they changed their mindset in the second half,” Prohm said.

Iowa State is on a roll now, winning its fourth straight game and its second against a top-five team in that time span.

“I could do this all year,” Prohm said of ESPN’s Big Monday games.

The string of wins is even more impressive given Iowa State rough 1-3 start to Big 12 play. Iowa State has rebounded from that start and has put itself in good position by beating Oklahoma and Kansas — two prime Big 12 title contenders.

“We’ve come along way, huh?” Prohm joked after the game.

In all seriousness, Prohm said that’s just the nature of the Big 12 this year. There have already been highs and lows, and his team is only halfway through the conference slate.

“Can’t get too high and too low,” Prohm said. “We’re only eight games into the conference and now we got to go play a top-five team in the country on Saturday night.”

That top-five team is No. 5 Texas A&M, which Iowa State will play in the annual Big 12/SEC challenge. Niang said the Big 12’s brutal schedule has only made Iowa State a stronger team, and he echoed Prohm’s warning about the season still having a long way to go.

Hardly 15 minutes after beating a fierce conference rival and the No. 4 team in the country, the Cyclones were already looking ahead to the next game.

“That’s the Big 12,” Niang said. “We’ve had a pretty good stretch of good teams down the line, and it doesn’t get any easier with this SEC challenge, so we’re going to have to prep for that.”