Saturday afternoon, most fans thought KU would bounce back from Monday night’s loss primed, rested and ready. Instead, they got slow and stagnant, thanks to Iowa State guard Curtis Stinson’s outstanding performance and a zone defense that put both All-American Wayne Simien and the Kansas perimeter game on the side of a milk carton.
“We were miserable today. Statistically we were fine – we didn’t rebound it that good – but offensively we were miserable. We did not have any rhythm at all, and never once the entire game were we in sync. Our best offense was out-of-bounds plays. That’s pretty sad,” commented KU head coach Bill Self.
Shooting just 34.4% (including 18.2% from behind the arc) and committing 18 turnovers, KU played into the hands of an Iowa State defense that crawled inside their heads, made Kansas over-think every passing and shooting decision, and turned the game into one in which KU played as tentatively as they have all season.
ISU’s tricky match-up zone – “We never really knew what sets they were in. I never really knew what play to run to beat the zone,” senior guard Keith Langford said – forced KU into 34.5% shooting, including an abysmal 4-of-23 from behind the arc.
Frigid KU shooting, along with sloppy passing and ball-handling early in the game, also meant KU’s senior All-American Wayne Simien only shot the ball seven times Saturday. He made four and went 9-for-9 from the free throw line for a solid 16 points. He was KU’s only scorer who hit double-figures, also adding 11 rebounds.
Self said, “I think they did a good job keeping the ball from Wayne (Simien) but we did a miserable job getting him the ball. I thought he was open many times, but we just didn’t throw it to him.”
“The biggest problem was our perimeter players’ inability to throw it to him because of lack of confidence,” Self explained. “J.R. (Giddens) turns the ball over twice and doesn’t want to throw it back in there. That’s what happens when you make bad decisions. Keith (Langford) was the same way. [Iowa State] did a good job taking [Simien] away, but still, you’ve got to go to your best player and he’s got to get touches. We didn’t give him the opportunity to produce like your best player should.”
It’s worth noting that reserve Jeff Hawkins was 2-of-3 from three-point range, making the starters 2-of-20 for 10%. Sophomore J.R. Giddens’ struggles continue, going 1-for-11 from behind the arc and 3-for-16 overall.
“We got the looks. But one thing that hurt us was not getting the ball to Wayne. He’s a great scorer, and for us not to get the ball to him, that’s my fault,” said Miles.
Simien added, “When you’re not shooting well from outside and you’re not attacking with dribble penetration, you’re not going to throw the ball inside.”
“I felt like I could do some things inside and get into a rhythm, but it didn’t happen. We just shot ourselves in the foot and settling for a lot of jump shots,” he added.
The early bad passes and turnovers contributed to a tentative approach that Self blames for totally taking Kansas out of their game, according to Self.
“That got us out of kilter enough that we totally stopped looking at him. Very frustrating. They had a small team in there the last six or seven minutes and he touched the ball once.”
Keith Langford scored nine for KU. Three Jayhawks – Miles, Giddens and surprise starter Sasha Kaun – kicked in seven points each. Reserve Jeff Hawkins scored six.
On the other end of the floor, Iowa State guard Curtis Stinson dropped 29 points on KU, including a 10-foot floater in the lane over Keith Langford that proved to be the game-winner with just five seconds left in overtime.
KU coach Self was succinct in his praise of the Cyclone guard: “He was great. We had no answer for Curtis Stinson – none.”
Keith Langford was a little more effusive. “He played well. Coach obviously motivated him by not starting him. He hit a couple of threes early, which is uncharacteristic for him, and that got him going. We let him get into a rhythm,” Langford said.
But Stinson did far more than just score points, though.
“He was the man out there,” Wayne Simien said. “Even when he wasn’t scoring, he was getting into the lane, causing havoc, getting other people involved, causing rotation rebounding. He was definitely the difference in the game for those guys.”
Aaron Miles also praised the 6-3 sophomore.
“He was tough, mentally. He got to the paint, drew fouls on us, made floaters,” Miles said. “He did a lot for them.”
So now, what was once a comfortable cushion in the Big 12 conference race has become nonexistent. And life doesn’t get any easier for the Jayhawks with a Big Monday trip to Norman to take on the always-tough, always-physical Oklahoma Sooners.
“We’ve got an even tougher game on Monday. We’ve got to practice tomorrow, see what the game plan is and go from there,” Langford said.
Miles said the team had to find a way to turn these two tough losses into positives.
“We can’t hang our heads. Media may bash us, fair-weather fans may bash us. But we’ve got to come together as a group and become tighter than ever and bounce back. That’s what champions do,” he said. “Tomorrow we’ve got to have a great practice – all positive. We can’t dwell on this. We have to look at it and learn from it and get better. But we have to stay positive and fight together.”
When addressing the same point, however, Self was a little more ominous.
“This was as disappointing of a performance as I have had since I have been here. It certainly could be very costly if we don't right this ship quickly,” he said.
Other game notes
- Junior forward Christian Moody was in street clothes for Saturday’s game, nursing a very painful, swollen knee that was the result of a freak injury during last Monday night’s game in Lubbock.
“Christian got an infection around his knee from a floor burn at Texas Tech,” Self explained. “He couldn’t hardly walk yesterday. We were hoping, after antibiotics and all that stuff, he could play today. No shot.”
Self added that Moody is doubtful for Monday’s game in Norman.
- Current NBA and former KU players Kirk Hinrich and Billy Thomas spent part of their All-Star break at the game Saturday.
- From the “When He Sit Around Hilton Coliseum, He Sits AROUND Hilton Coliseum” file: Iowa State freshman reserve center Aaron Agnew checks in at a Braskyesque 6-10 and 385 pounds. The rumor that he once punched a hole in the side of a cow to see who was coming up the road is unsubstantiated.