It may have been sunny outside of the Sprint Center, but it was raining threes for Iowa State as the Cyclones defeated the Kansas Jayhawks 94-83 to advance to the Big 12 Championship final on Saturday.
The Cyclones (25-7, 11-7) came out firing on all cylinders to start the game, as they hit 66.7 percent (8-12) of their shots from beyond the arc in the first half. As the Jayhawks (24-9, 14-4) went on a 15-2 run to eventually take the lead with 8:15 remaining in the first half, it was sophomore forward Perry Ellis who led Kansas with 21 points heading into the locker room.
With junior guard Naadir Tharpe leading all players with a game-high 9 assists, 7 coming in the first half, the Cyclones continued their offensive splurge in the second half, answering every run that Kansas went on.
“We never got in any rhythm defensively at all,” KU coach Bill Self said after the game. “It was disappointing that we didn’t play better on the defensive end, but certainly they deserved to beat us, and we deserved exactly what we got.”
Despite the defensive struggles Kansas had throughout the game, it was the lack of offense from Andrew Wiggins and Ellis in the second half that hurt the Jayhawks.
Regardless of the 9 points Ellis scored in the second half, it was Wiggins who was unable to get on a rhythm. He finished the game shooting 7-of-21 from the field and 22 points, and it seemed like every point was hard earned. Without freshman center Joel Embiid in the lineup, the Jayhawks seem to be missing a giant defensive presence that they want back sooner than later.
“He’s a big piece of our program, so everybody on the team has to make up for his absence,” Tarik Black said about the added pressure Embiid’s absence has on the defense.
Kansas now has to wait until Sunday to see who they will face in the first round of the NCAA tournament.
“We’re not going to be a 1. … And who knows if we’ll be a 2,” Self said when talking about the NCAA tournament.
Kansas will learn when its next game will be during Selection Sunday.
– Ryan Levine, KJHK Sports