AMES, Iowa — Jameel McKay scanned the stat sheet laying in front of him, eyeing the lone statistic that stood out to him. He didn’t go for the career-high point total in his first-career start nor did he pick the perfect line from the field. Instead, McKay looked to the far right.
“The three blocks,” McKay offered. “I always preach to the guards to send them my way and then I always have their back. That comes with defense, as well.”
With the help of McKay and that defense the big man alluded to, No. 11 Iowa State avenged a loss last month to Texas Tech with a crushing 75-38 win at Hilton Coliseum, moving within one game of first-place Kansas in the Big 12.
Since Iowa State’s loss to Kansas on Monday at Allen Fieldhouse, coach Fred Hoiberg has preached defense. The Cyclones entered Saturday’s game ranked outside the top-200 in 3-point defense and last in the Big 12.
Iowa State put extra emphasis in running shooters off the line in recent days.
“I felt like coach was putting emphasis on us, taking pride and keeping guys in front of us,” said guard Naz Long, who scored 15. “These last couple days have been as intense as any practice we’ve had this year. We’re last in a couple categories defensively and we’re looking to change that. That’s all that is.”
The added emphasis worked as Texas Tech’s 38 points were the fewest allowed by Iowa State in a conference game since 1967. The 37-point margin of victory was the third-largest against a conference foe in program history.
There was defense, and there was McKay.
McKay learned he would make his first-career start during pregame after Bryce Dejean-Jones was removed from the lineup for tardiness. McKay took advantage of the opportunity, scoring a career-high 17 on 7-of-7 from the field, three of which were dunks. He also grabbed eight rebounds.
“He runs as fast as anybody in the country as far as big men go,” Long said. “He did his thing out there. He was blocking shots on the defensive end and grabbing some rebounds. Jameel affects the game in so many ways. That’s what he did.”
“I thought we was phenomenal,” Hoiberg added.
The Cyclones held the Red Raiders to 17 first-half points and extended their lead by starting 10-of-11 from the field (4-of-5 from 3) after halftime. Iowa State built a game-high 43-point lead with a 24-2 run late in the second half.
Yet, the talk late Saturday afternoon rested with defense.
“I feel like today is the best defense we played all year," McKay said. "It should be a trend for things to follow."