The Iowa State Cyclones attempt to stay perfect at Hilton Coliseum on Monday night, as they entertain the Kansas Jayhawks in a Big 12 Conference showdown.
Kansas took a mighty spill in the national rankings when it started off the month of February with three straight losses, its first three-game losing streak in the past eight seasons, but since then it has regained its footing with a four-game win streak. The Jayhawks most recently dismissed TCU on Saturday afternoon, 74-48, to improve to 23-4 overall, and at 11-3 in the league, it is tied for first place with intrastate rival Kansas State.
Iowa State also enjoyed an easy win over the weekend, taking down Texas Tech in an 86-66 final to improve to 15-0 at Hilton Coliseum. The Cyclones have won three straight games to creep up to 19-8 overall, and they are two games behind the league leaders (9-5) with four games remaining in the regular season.
Kansas has dominated the series versus Iowa State, going 172-59. The Jayhawks have won 13 of the last 14 matchups, including a 97-89 overtime victory in Lawrence on Jan. 9.
The Jayhawks' latest contest was never in doubt, as they held TCU to a mere nine points in the opening 20 minutes, the lowest first-half scoring output in a Big 12 game in the past 15 years. Kansas also put together a strong shooting performance to go with its stout defensive effort, making 49.1 percent of its field goal attempts and 94.7 percent of its free throws. Jeff Withey led the way with 18 points, six rebounds and three blocks, Ben McLemore scored 14 points, and Travis Releford and Perry Ellis netted 12 points apiece. KU has grown accustomed to outstanding all-around performances this year, as it scores 73.3 ppg while surrendering just 59.9 ppg, for a league-best scoring margin of +13.4. McLemore is a sniper on the outside, scoring 16.2 ppg with fantastic percentages from the field overall (.497), 3-point range (.426) and the foul line (.876). The 6-foot-5 guard is also impressive on the boards (5.4 rpg) and helps out on defense too (1.2 spg, 0.8 bpg). Withey tallies 13.6 ppg and 8.5 rpg, and he is one of the premier interior defenders in the nation with 4.0 bpg. Releford (12.2 ppg) and Elijah Johnson (9.1 ppg, 4.4 apg) are also enjoying strong seasons.
Not only does Iowa State have the top-ranked offense in the Big 12 (79.5 ppg), but it pours in the fifth-most points in all of Division I, and its shooting attack did not disappoint in the 20-point win over Texas Tech. The Cyclones shot nearly 50 percent from the field and drained 11 3-pointers, and they were paced by a pair of 17-point efforts from Chris Babb and Will Clyburn. Melvin Ejim was a beast in the paint with 13 points and 13 rebounds, while Tyrus McGee also scored 13 points off the bench. Pacing ISU's balanced attack this season is Clyburn, who has exceeded expectations during his first year in Ames with 14.9 ppg and 7.3 rpg. Ejim has been doing dirty work down low all season long with 11.1 ppg and a Big 12-best 9.7 rpg, while Korie Lucious (9.7 ppg) ranks second in the conference in assists with 5.8 per contest. McGee (13.1 ppg), Georges Niang (11.4 ppg) and Babb (9.6 ppg) round out one of the best six-man rotations in the nation. The Cyclones are heavily reliant on the 3- pointer. Not only have they made 260 long-range buckets (67 more than any other Big 12 team), but they drill them at a league-best 37 percent clip.