Fresh off a victory against Kansas, Iowa State basketball turns to the other team from the state to our South. Originally expected to be an easier opponent compared to the last three teams, Kansas State comes in with four straight wins and the best record in the Big 12. There’s never a night off in this conference.
Kansas State Wildcats vs (9)Iowa State Cyclones
James H. Hilton Coliseum | Ames, Iowa
Tuesday, January 20th, 2015 | Tipoff – 6:00 PM CT
TV: ESPN2 | Stream: WatchESPN
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Iowa State (13-3, 3-1) was expected to be in a first-place tie with Kansas if they won on Saturday night, but Kansas State (11-7, 4-1), by virtue of playing one more game in the conference, is actually in the driver’s seat. It’s an amazing accomplishment considering the Wildcats were 7-7 after the Big 12 opener.
What’s been the keys for the Wildcats? Their defense. TCU and Baylor are known for shutting teams down, but Kansas State owns the best scoring defense in Big 12 play holding teams to just 57 points per game. Opponents are shooting just 38.3 percent from the field and 30.6 percent from downtown. They also have forced 68 total turnovers.
Wildcats guard Marcus Foster has also been a killer. He was the main guy responsible in delivering the game winning shot at Oklahoma after forcing overtime. He’s also scored in double figures during the winning streak after being shutout with just 14 minutes of playing time off the bench against Oklahoma State.
Kansas State has a 136-82 all-time record against Iowa State. However, the Cyclones are 47-50 at home against the Wildcats, 21-19 in the Big 12 era, and have won five of the last seven meetings and last three games at Hilton Coliseum. ISU has won six of the last 10 meetings since KSU won eight straight between 2006 through 2010.
What to watch for
Mar 13, 2014; Kansas City, MO, USA; Kansas State Wildcats guard Marcus Foster (2) shoots a free throw during the first half against the Iowa State Cyclones in the second round of the Big 12 Conference college basketball tournament at Sprint Center. Mandatory Credit: Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports
How legit is Kansas State’s defense? They gave up the most points against Oklahoma and still won that game 66-63. The lone loss in conference play came in the opener, where they gave up 61 to Oklahoma State on the road but only scored a paltry 47 points.
Other than that, they’ve had home contests against TCU, Texas Tech, and Baylor. Not trying to take anything away from how solid the defense has played, but they’ve also played against some Big 12 teams that don’t have great offenses.
Kansas State’s defense is still good. There has been a much-improved mark on allowed field goal percentage, which has dropped to 44.1 percent, and on the season they’ve held teams to 62.4 points and 28.6 rebounds (seventh nationally) per game. On offense, the Wildcats average a solid 13.8 assists per game, but score just 65.6 points and grab just 31.6 boards per game (305th nationally).
For Iowa State, it’s all about avoiding the big letdown game. The team is sky-high after finally defeating Kansas in the regular season. This is a perfect opportunity for players like Jameel McKay, Dustin Hogue, and Georges Niang to dominate inside. Kansas State’s bigger guys will appear in the game, but they don’t start or receive nearly as much playing time as the other players.
It’s so important for Iowa State to defend their home court, and they’ll need to tame their emotions from Saturday for a quick turnaround against a red-hot Big 12 team. Is Kansas State as good as their 4-1 record shows? They’ve benefited from the schedule, but the defense is for real and the Cyclones always have had issues with the Wildcats.
Iowa State must avoid letting Kansas State getting a large number of assists and they need to keep the game up tempo without turning the ball over, which the Wildcats have been successful at forcing recently. The Cyclones also need to keep riding McKay with his dominance inside, and Naz Long delivering from downtown would be an added bonus.