AMES — Kansas Coach Bill Self wanted to talk up his team’s defense, but a “but” lurked in his postgame comments.
That was slightly more than two weeks ago — when the No. 7 Jayhawks rolled into Ames and beat Iowa State, 77-70.
“Let’s just call it: they missed looks,” Self said, explaining. “I’d like to say we guarded them better, but they missed some open looks.”
They missed to the tune of 4 of 25 from 3-point range — and don’t expect a low-percentage repeat tonight when the Cyclones take the floor against Kansas at Allen Fieldhouse.
“The way we shot that game is probably not going to happen again,” said ISU forward Georges Niang, who missed all nine of his 3-point attempts in the previous matchup but is 8 of 13 from distaCyclnce since.
Better not. The Cyclones face enough of a K2-like climb after the Jayhawks outebounded them by 17 — and have won 17 of the most recent 18 meetings.
“I feel like we’re going to play with a chip on our shoulder,” said ISU freshman guard Monte Morris. “There’s not a better feeling than going somewhere and stunning their crowd.”
How the Cyclones lost the two regular-season meetings last season is what still stings. Questionable calls late at Ames led the Big 12 to reprimand two game officials. Ben McLemore’s banked-in buzzer-beating 3-pointer at Lawrence led to crushed cardinal and gold hearts and a Kansas frolic through overtime.
“It still pains me,” ISU Coach Fred Hoiberg said of that inexplicable basket that wasn’t framed by an open look at the basket. “When it went off his hand it looked like it was three feet to the left. I usually can judge if a ball’s going to go in. … It was a hard one to handle.”
Merely to be in a position to win tonight, or suffer a similar heartbreaking fate, will require “attention to detail,” Hoiberg said. Kansas is efficient and explosive, shooting a league-best 51 percent from the field and ranking 13th nationally in blocked shots at 6.3 per game.
Two players — possibly the top two players to be taken in this summer’s NBA Draft — stand out. That’s 7-foot center Joel Embiid, who’s shooting 66.7 percent and posted five blocks in Ames, and 6-8 guard Andrew Wiggins, who rose up for 19 rebounds as the Jayhawks forged a 53-to-36 edge on the glass in the same game.
“We’ve just got to go at them,” ISU point guard DeAndre Kane said.
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