Sports

Cyclones and Jayhawks meet in pivotal Big 12 tussle

Lawrence, KS (SportsNetwork.com) - Two of the top teams in the Big 12 Conference get together on Monday night, as the Iowa State Cyclones pull into Allen Fieldhouse to tangle with the Kansas Jayhawks.

At 6-2 in the Big 12, Iowa State is off to its best start in conference play since the 2000-01 season. The Cyclones, who are presently tied with West Virginia for second place, have won their last two games to improve to 16-4 overall. ISU whipped TCU at home on Saturday, 83-66, and the squad will try to climb a game over .500 in true road tests with a win tonight, and in the process earn its first regular-season sweep of the Jayhawks since 2000-01.

Kansas holds down first place in the Big 12 standings, as the team has won four straight to elevate its league ledger to 7-1, and its overall record to 18-3. The Jayhawks took down visiting Kansas State on Saturday, 68-57, to improve to 11-0 at home.

These two teams met in Ames on Jan. 17, with the Cyclones prevailing in an 86-81 final. Still, Kansas holds a commanding lead in the all-time series at 176-61, which includes a 90-15 mark in Lawrence.

In the first meeting between the two teams, Iowa State's Naz Long scored 20 points to lead six players in double figures, among them Monte' Morris who logged his first career double-double with 11 points and 10 assists. The Jayhawks got 21 points from Frank Mason III, while Perry Ellis logged his own double-double with 19 points and 11 boards in defeat.

Georges Niang was high man for the Cyclones in their recent win over TCU, as he tallied 23 points while grabbing eight rebounds. Morris and Bryce Dejean- Jones tacked on 16 points apiece, while Dustin Hogue added 12 points for an Iowa State squad that drained 56.4 percent of its field goal attempts. As for the Horned Frogs, they shot just 40.6 percent from the floor, and went a dreadful 1-of-8 at the free-throw line. Furthermore, ISU controlled the glass to the tune of a 44-30 rebounding advantage.

All five starters are averaging double figures for the Cyclones this season, led by Niang's 15.2 ppg. As a result, the team is netting 80.3 ppg in hitting 49.1 percent of its total shots, but only 35.1 percent of its 3-point tries. Iowa State's defensive stance allows the opposition 68.6 ppg, behind typical shooting efforts of .414 overall, .339 from beyond the arc, and .751 at the foul line.

Kansas played exceptional defense in Saturday's win over rival Kansas State, as it held the Wildcats to 33.3 percent field goal efficiency, which included a horrific 17.1 percent (6-of-35) effort in the first half. K-State finished with five 3-pointers, but went 0-of-7 from distance during the opening 20 minutes. The Jayhawks were only 44.8 percent accurate from the floor, and they had a rough day at the charity stripe (10-of-17). Ellis produced another double-double with 16 points and 12 boards, while Wayne Selden, Jr. chipped in with 14 points, Brannen Greene 11 and Mason III 10 in the winning effort.

For the season, Kansas is putting up 71.8 ppg, thanks in large part to its near-40 percent performance out on the perimeter and 70.8 percent showing at the free-throw line. Balance has been the key, as seven players average at least 6.0 ppg, including double-digit scorers Ellis (12.8 ppg) and Mason III (12.7 ppg). The Jayhawks have done well for the themselves at the defensive end by yielding 64.2 ppg, with foes shooting just 39.8 percent from the field. A +5.9 rebounding differential has also helped the team achieve some of its goals this season.