KU Stays Focused

With two huge rivalry games on tap next week Kansas remained in the present and took care of business with an impressive 84-61 win at Iowa State.

Missouri stumbled for awhile in a win against Nebraska and Kansas State lost a shocker at home to Oklahoma State. Maybe both teams got caught looking ahead? Kansas refused to let that happen and took care of the only game they could…the next one on the schedule.

The Jayhawks looked sharp downing the Cyclones 84-61 good for their ninth straight win against head coach Greg McDermott's team.

"I thought we played really well. I thought we got off to a great start", said KU head coach Bill Self referring to the 8-0 start for his team.  

With a depleted Iowa State team down to seven scholarship players it probably wasn't as daunting a task to go into Hilton Coliseum and get win as in years past but guarding Craig Brackins was still the priority.

Brackins torched Kansas with 42 points last season in Ames so guarding him was a challenge Marcus Morris took personally. The end result produced quite a different story this year in Ames when Brackins scored just 13 on 5-13 shooting and was basically a non-factor.

Kansas collectively held Iowa State to 37.7 percent shooting from the field and has now held 14 of 19 opponents this season to under 40 percent shooting. Wednesday although Baylor shot over 52 percent from the floor breaking a 90+ game streak for Kansas holding opponents under the 50 percent mark Self was encouraged by how his team guarded. Baylor "made shots" according to the 7th year coach. Kansas is clearly picking up in the "D" because in the last two they have forced 37 turnovers and snatched 24 steals.

The only area where KU did struggle was from behind the arc shooting a dismal 17.6 percent. Most of that can be attributed to Sherron Collins and Xavier Henry going a combined 0-9 from long range.  

It's been no secret that Self wants more production out of Aldrich. Saturday the junior center looked like the Aldrich of old. Cole is finally healthy and though he is still coping with the passing of his grandmother last week, there an added bounce in his step in Ames. Aldrich posted a team-high 19 points, added 11 rebounds and notched his 7th double-double of the season.  

"I don't know if that's the sole reason but he was better today there's no question," Self answered after being asked about Cole being freed up mentally. "He moved better and he was aggressive offensively and they packed it in there but we still made a conscious effort to give him touches."

Aldrich rewarded his teammates when he did get touches shooting 81.8 percent from the field on 9-11 shooting. Cole has shot over 80 percent or better in five games this season. It is only the third time that Aldrich has led the team in scoring this season.

According to Self this is a good time for anyone who wants a clean slate to start over because it is from here on out where the games are important. Now is the time to get off to a fresh start.

KU's bench just continues to produce and Saturday Kansas fans were introduced to Arizona transfer Jeff Withey as he made his biggest contribution off the bench this season. Self though Withey might be ready to contribute by Big 12 season but admitted his appearance in today's game was not planned.

"I'm going to be real honest with you I wouldn't have given him the chance if it weren't for the foul situation. I'm glad. I told our guys one of the best things to happen to us today was we did get into foul problems and that kind of forced us to use our bench, and our bench showed that they can perform out there which is good and that will give me confidence to play them in crucial situations in the future," Self said.

Withey scored eight points, pulled down five boards, and logged 12-minutes – all career-highs at KU. Withey also contributed to the team of Jayhawks that help shutdown  Brackins.

"We did foul too much. The one thing we were probably fortunate with is Thomas (Robinson) got a couple and got sped up so we played Cole and Jeff there and I put him on Brackins. I thought he did a good job on Craig. His length bothered him a little bit and I thought he moved his feet pretty well. He went after the ball. I was real pleased with him," Self assessed.

"I thought Jeff was great, and gave us some good minutes. That will give me some confidence and our team some confidence in going to him more often."

This will only make Kansas deeper as the season goes on. The bench produced 27 points and three Kansas players played over 30 minutes (Sherron Collins, Brady Morningstar, and Aldrich) no other Jayhawk played more than 20 minutes.

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