Iowa State players have been told Kansas’ streak of 10 consecutive Big 12 regular season titles is embarrassing. They have said themselves the streak is quite an accomplishment. Saturday, they asserted their desire to end it. That statement came with an 86-81 win against the Jayhawks at Hilton Coliseum.
“In order for us to compete with them for the league championship, we had to win this game. We absolutely had to,” coach Fred Hoiberg said. “It’s so hard to win in that building, so we had to protect our home court.”
Attention Kansas: It’s Showtime.
And that message isn’t simply in reference to McKay, although Iowa State’s rim protector certainly served notice in his first-ever meeting with the Jayhawks. The message, however, is that if Kansas is to win an 11th consecutive crown, it won’t come easily.
No player on Iowa State’s roster has lost more than two games at Hilton Coliseum in his career, and no player has lost to any team other than Kansas. As if any motivation were needed in a game hyped by ESPN College GameDay descending upon Ames for its morning show or a matchup of two highly rated teams.
“Before the game I couldn’t even hear,” Hoiberg said of the atmosphere. “It was literally hurting my ears in that game.”
Iowa State forced 11 Kansas turnovers in the first half Saturday, and eventually went to the break with a three-point lead, which it never relinquished. That’s not to say the win came easily.
Iowa State opened the second half on a 15-6 run at the first media timeout to build a 12-point lead. But Kansas is Kansas. Five minutes later, the Jayhawks had drawn within two. That’s when McKay ran the floor, took a pass from Monte Morris and slammed home an alley-oop.
In a span of 81 seconds, McKay scored six points.
“Jameel McKay is such a difference-maker in his ability to run the floor,” Hoiberg said. “That’s what opened it up a little for us was with Jameel in there.”
“I felt like I brought a lot of energy with making those plays,” McKay added.
The Cyclones scored 21 points in transition — Kansas charted the number at 27 — which proved to be the difference.
“They were a lot faster than us in transition,” Kansas coach Bill Self said. “We didn’t do a good job of that at all. They outplayed us, but that was the biggest difference in the game. McKay scored six straight points all off transition.”
Kansas stormed back again later, partly with the help of missed free throws down the stretch as Iowa State shot 15-of-26 from the line. The Cyclones were led in scoring by Naz Long, who scored 20. Morris finished with 11 points, 10 assists and seven rebounds while McKay ended with 11 points.
The five-point win for the Cyclones doubled their biggest margin of victory in Big 12 play previously and jumbled the conference standings.
“That shows you every night how much of a battle it’s going to be,” Hoiberg said. “It was an important step to protect our home court against a team that everybody is trying to knock off.”