By Rob Gray
AMES — Iowa State’s DeAndre Kane stood at center stage, racking up steals, points and an alley-oop dunk on his bum left ankle — the one that almost prevented him from playing.
It was most definitely the fifth-year senior and first-year Cyclone’s “Big Monday” show, but Kansas had more than enough leading men to upstage it.
“I went out there and I played,” said Kane, whose 21 points, eight rebounds and four steals weren’t enough to prevent his No. 10 team from losing to the 18th-ranked Jayhawks 77-70 in a Big 12 game that played out before 14,384 fans at Hilton Coliseum.
Yes, Kane, who was a game-time decision after spraining his ankle in the final minute of Saturday’s 87-82 loss at Oklahoma, played and played well.
He endured 37 minutes and hit a 3-pointer at the first-half buzzer that knotted the score at 36-36.
Momentum — which Kansas maintained most of the first 20 minutes — momentarily wandered toward ISU.
But the resurgent Jayhawks (12-4, 3-0) wouldn’t relent.
A 9-0 run in the first two minutes of the second half set the Cyclones (14-2, 2-2) on their heels and they’d never inch closer than five points from the lead thereafter.
“We didn’t keep the crowd out of the game,” said Kansas coach Bill Self, whose team has at least shared the regular season conference title nine years in a row. “But we didn't let the crowd really get into the game, because with every run they made, or got close, we were able to answer.”
Three Jayhawks provided the most commanding responses.
First, guard Naadir Tharpe, who scored 14 of his career-high 23 points in the first half.
Second, center Joel Embiid, who notched eight of his 16 points during a 10-3 run that gave Kansas its biggest lead of 12 points with 7:19 left.
Third, guard Andrew Wiggins, who scored 17 points and hoarded a career-high 19 rebounds, which helped the Jayhawks forge a 53-to-36 edge on the glass.
“We came out hard,” Wiggins said of the second-half surge. “We came out hungry.”
The Cyclones came out cold and couldn’t heat up.
ISU shot a season-low 31 percent and missed 21 of its 25 3-point attempts while staying in the game by forcing 24 turnovers.
“We’re a rhythm team and when we get in that rhythm we’re a tough team to stop,” said Cyclones coach Fred Hoiberg, whose team entered the game shooting 49.5 percent — second to Kansas in Big 12 field goal accuracy. “We just never really found it (Monday). We just couldn’t get anything going on the offensive end. Even lay-ups. We were in there missing lay-ups that we normally make.”
ISU’s Matt Thomas offered one last sliver of hope when he drained his only 3-pointer of the game to cap an 8-2 run and make the score 62-57 with 52 seconds left.
After a defensive stop, Kane drove the lane and tried to draw a foul which didn’t materialize.
Tharpe then sank two free throws and Kansas eventually sealed its 17th win in the past 18 meetings.
“You get in those slumps, it’s sometimes hard to get out,” said the Cyclones’ Melvin Ejim, who scored 15 points on 5-of-15 shooting. “(It’s) not going to last forever.”
Self said ISU’s icy shooting from the perimeter stemmed partly from the Jayhawks’ defense.
“They still missed shots they normally — even if they shoot a bad percentage (from 3), they’ll make eight or nine,” Self said. “And they made four. We were fortunate there.”
And even though the Cyclones failed to make it a one-possession game in the second half, they never fell out of contention either, despite the poor shooting and overall rebounding numbers.
“I’m going to go to battle with these guys every game,” Hoiberg said. “I wouldn't take any other player in the league over the guys I’ve got. We’re going to regroup and we’re going to get back together and we’ll be stronger because of these last two games.”
The recent rebounding issues are settling into a pattern, however.
ISU’s been out-boarded by their last five opponents after finishing on the plus-side in nine of the first 11 games.
“So we’ll get back to doing a lot of technique stuff on that,” Hoiberg said. “You don’t want this to be a trend.”
That won’t happen, Kane said.
He survived a scare with 4:58 left when it appeared he may have re-tweaked his ankle.
Turned out to be a knee to his thigh, Kane said, which is painful but far from catastrophic.
Just like two tough losses after winning a program-best 14 in a row.
Forget “Big Monday.”
He’s thinking big picture.“We shot terrible, but it’s no time to put our heads down,” Kane said. “We’re 14-2. We’ve still got a long season. We get a day off (today) and we get back in the lab in Wednesday.”