Close, But Not Quite

Behind a pair of sensational freshmen, Kansas edged Iowa State, 77-70, Monday night in Ames. Head inside for thoughts and notes from the game, as well as an ode to Embiid and Wiggins.

Moments after they got done egging Hilton Coliseum, Andrew Wiggins and Joel Embiid sidled up to the microphones in the media workroom with big grins on their faces, giggling about a secret and stifling their laughter.

Just their prank, nobody has to know.

Upon finishing their duties, Wiggins and Embiid hopped to the floor from the platform, Embiid giving Wiggins a fraternal shoulder massage, a regular Angelo Dundee.

These two manchilds, they're just kids, rewriting the rules and making up the jokes as they go.

Over 14,000 bore witness to their latest antics, a 77-70 triumph over No. 8 Iowa State on Monday night. The trick? Domination by deception. Seven-footers aren't supposed to be able to move like that, small forwards aren't supposed to grab 19 rebounds, and they're sure as hell not supposed to make it look so effortless.

If you're prone to letting your mind wander into Land of Dangerous Hyperbole, Monday night was a dream. Was this Lew Alcindor at Pauley Pavilion? LeBron James at some crackerbox gym in Akron?

Wiggins and Embiid are sensationally special, future top NBA picks — how can you not take Embiid first overall? — with the college basketball world at their feet.

Rival fans will celebrate when the pair goes pro after this season, but enjoy them while you can, because seldom does it getter better than Andrew Wiggins and Joel Embiid.


Random thought I doubt anybody else is having Monday night: Is this an indictment on Isaiah Austin, or what? The Cyclones were ill-suited to defend, out-rebound or shoot over Embiid. Austin is two inches taller and, while nobody in college hoops has Embiid's skill, is supposed to be a lottery pick himself. Austin was pretty good a week ago against Iowa State, with 10 points, 12 rebounds and three blocks, but in hindsight he should have a been a lot better.

ISU coach Fred Hoiberg was asked in a meandering way to compare Embiid and Austin. That's how he ended up with the below quote:

"I think Embiid is the best player in the country."


Hoiberg's defensive gameplan was to double-team Embiid and Perry Ellis whenever they received touches in the paint and dare an open Naadir Tharpe to hit jumper after jumper.

So Tharpe … hit jumper after jumper for a career-high 23 points on 3-for-4 shooting from three-point range.

"I thought Naadir was fabulous," coach Bill Self said afterward.

While the Cyclones' switching and double-teaming left them scrambling at times on perimeter rotations, Kansas only shot 31.3 percent from distance. Could have been worse.


Iowa State was a miserable 4-for-25 from three-point range (16 percent), shot 31.4 percent from the floor and missed 12 foul shots.

Sophomore forward Georges Niang stunk, missing all NINE of his three-point attempts and hitting a total of four shots out of 20.

Starting shooting guard Naz Long got two shots off the entire contest, both three-pointers, both misses.

Matt Thomas was 1-for-4 from three-point range.

Melvin Ejim made two three-pointers but missed 10 field goals and turned the ball over three times.

Kansas won the battle on the glass, 53 rebounds to 36.

It couldn't have have been worse.

And yet, the Cyclones somehow lost by just seven points.

"We're still right in there at the end," Hoiberg said. "Had some open shots we normally make. A lot of our guys had good looks, unfortunately you have nights like this in the game of basketball. I give our guys credit for fighting and having active hands and turning them over 24 times."

While the blueprint to defeat Iowa State will mostly entail battering the Cyclones down low, the game easily could have gone the other way. Tied 36 at halftime, Kansas started on a 9-0 run after, putting the Cyclones in a precarious position.

They battled back but were never able to quite get over the hump, several times cutting the deficit to five points. A few three-pointers here, a few rebounds there, who knows.


Eight missed foul shots aside, DeAndre Kane was brilliant for Iowa State. Playing on a less-than-optimum left ankle, the point guard knifed his way to 21 points, hauled in eight rebounds and notched four steals.

A stint on the bench with a few minutes left jolted the fan base, but Kane said after the game he took a knee to the thigh and didn't re-tweak his ankle.

Sensing optimism around the program beginning to deflate, Kane issued a postgame reminder to Central Iowa to, well, relax.

"Not time to put our head down," Kane said. "We're still 14-2. It's a long season."

Next Up

Iowa State travels to Austin (lucky dogs) to face Texas (13-4) in what has suddenly become an intriguing game. The Cyclones are way more talented than the Longhorns, but Texas is tougher than we all thought in the preseason; road wins over North Carolina and West Virginia back that up, and the Longhorns also played Michigan State close for more than a half over the Holidays.

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