March 15, 2013

Round 3: Kansas vs. Iowa State

The Sprint Center will be alive Friday night when No. 7/6 Kansas (27-5, 14-4) takes on Iowa State (22-10, 11-7) in the highly anticipated third meeting between the two this season.

Iowa State and its fans have been clamoring for it, and now they have it; the rematch against despised Kansas.

The last meeting between the two programs in Ames, Iowa is still being talked about and ISU is still bitter about some questionable late-game calls which eventually resulted in the Jayhawks stealing an important road win in conference play.

Elijah Johnson couldn't miss on his way to scoring a career-high 39 points, and capped off his big night with an ill-advised dunk as the final buzzer sounded which, further fueled the fire which has Cyclones in Kansas City ready for payback.

Friday night, in what should be a packed arena filled with ISU and Kansas fans, the Jayhawks and Cyclones will face off for a chance to play in Saturday's championship game against either Oklahoma State or Kansas State.

Tip is set for 6:30 p.m. (CST).

Kansas

Led by Ben McLemore, Kansas cruised to an easy win over Texas Tech Thursday night. The star freshman scored 24 points and got started early, throwing down a lob pass from Elijah Johnson to put the first two points on the board for KU.

He later had a highlight reel dunk on a break while also knocking down 4-of-8 three-point attempts.

McLemore was the only starter to score double digits, mostly due to an easy second half which saw Kansas ease its way to a comfortable win over TTU after the Red Raiders played well and kept up with the Jayhawks in the first half.

Freshman reserves Anrio Adams and Andrew White added a combined 17 points late in the game, 11 of those points coming from Adams, who has had his ups and downs both on the court in very limited action, as well as off it with social media.

The true test awaits Kansas on Friday when they take on a hungry Iowa State team that believes they won both of the earlier meetings, even though the win/loss column says otherwise.

In response to Will Clyburn and his comments of seeking revenge and payback, KU's Johnson responded by saying he doesn't blame them.

It would appear Iowa State is putting everything they have into the game against Kansas, while KU is quietly preparing for just another game. The Jayhawks are accustomed to having the target on their back and understand ISU is gunning for them, which is no different from any other night.

Still, Kansas will need to be prepared for an extra level of energy, not only from the Cyclones, but in the arena, which is sure to hear plenty of boos from Cyclone fans.
The key for Kansas is figuring out a way to keep Jeff Withey in the game without rendering his defense completely useless against a team that isn't afraid to shoot 30-plus attempts from three-point range.

Georges Niang is a player that has become a tough matchup for KU with regards to Withey. While Niang doesn't have the greatest percentage from beyond the arc, he is much more of a face-up forward and brings Withey away from the basket where he is unable to protect the rim.

So far, ISU hasn't taken advantage of that against Kansas by getting to the rim, choosing to live and die by the three.

In their last meeting, Iowa State hit 17 three's against Kansas -- a number that would lead you to believe the game was won by the Cyclones. KU, however, was able to overcome ISU's perimeter attack by getting 39 points from Johnson and getting the game into overtime.

Anything goes in March Madness and Iowa State has every capability to take down KU, which would be its second loss in three games and could damage its ideal situation of getting placed in Kansas City for the first weekend of the NCAA tournament.

KU will need to rebound as well as it has all season, especially because of the high volume of three-pointers, which leads to long boards. Bill Self will look to his guards to help the big men snag rebounds and control possessions. Iowa State likes to simply try and outscore its opponents as opposed to relying on defense, which means Kansas will need to be just a fluid and efficient on the offensive end of the floor.

Projected Starters

G - Elijah Johnson (Senior, 6-foot-4, 195 pounds)

G - Ben McLemore (Freshman, 6-foot-5, 195 pounds)

G - Travis Releford (Senior, 6-foot-5, 207 pounds)

F - Kevin Young (Senior, 6-foot-8, 190 pounds)

C - Jeff Withey (Senior, 7-foot, 235 pounds)

Bench: Perry Ellis, Naadir Tharpe, Jamari Traylor, Andrew White III

Iowa State Cyclones

Iowa State got off to a sluggish start against Oklahoma and looked to be all but history in the 2013 Big 12 Tournament until a second-half rally from 14 down led the Cyclones back and into a tie with just under 10 minutes to go in the game.

At that point, shots started falling and Iowa State became the potent offensive team its fans are used to seeing.

Forward Melvin Ejim led the way with 23 points and 12 rebounds, making play after play around the rim late in the game and getting the better of OU's Romero Osby.

Will Clyburn scored 17 points, many of which were huge in ISU's run to get back into the game.

The now infamous Kansas-Iowa State rematch is set for Friday night and the Cyclones have a legitimate chance to take down the Jayhawks and advance to the Big 12 final.

The question is whether the Cyclones can control their emotions and avoid letting their desire to beat Kansas for winning what they believe were actually losses, control their ability to focus on the actual game itself.

Mentally, Iowa State needs to stick to its game plan and do what it does best; shoot threes. Kansas has a distinct size advantage and is the better team, but Iowa State has plenty of shooters and as anyone who follows basketball knows; the outside shot is the true equalizer in the sport.

It is unlikely ISU will again hit upwards of 17 three's against Kansas, and you can bet Bill Self will have his team ready to play stingy perimeter defense, which means Iowa State needs to attack the Jayhawks and not settle for its offense to solely come from the outside.

If Niang and Ejim can pull Withey away from the basket, the ISU guards have the quickness and athleticism to get into the lane and put some pressure on KU's defense. If Withey tries to recover and provide help on drives, it will free up guys like Niang who aren't afraid to knock down outside shots.

Intensity will be key for Iowa State, but controlling emotions and harnessing that intensity into focus will be what wins them the game.

Projected Starters

G - Chris Babb (Senior, 6-foot-5, 225 pounds)

G - Korie Lucious (Senior, 5-foot-11, 170 pounds)

G - Will Clyburn (Senior, 6-foot-7, 210 pounds)

F - Melvin Ejim (Senior, 6-foot-6, 230 pounds)

C - Percy Gibson (Sophomore, 6-foot-9, 260 pounds)

Bench: Tyrus McGee, Georges Niang, Anthony Booker

The Edge: Kansas

Despite Iowa State appearing to be the team that, "wants it more," Kansas is still the team to beat. Wanting it more by speaking out about payback and revenge and those types of comments is vastly different than playing with that same mindset and executing.

Kansas is one of the best defensive teams in the country and they will be ready for the Cyclones and their three-point shooting. Bill Self knows he cannot allow good looks and for ISU to hit 17 three's because frankly, KU doesn't win the game in Ames if not for Elijah Johnson.

KU will need to rebound, especially when it comes to long caroms from missed perimeter shots and the Jayhawks will need to focus on going after 50/50 balls and not allowing the Cyclones multiple looks.

Offensively, Self's team will need to play efficiently and work the ball into Withey, who has not been getting the ball as much as he should. Withey on the offensive end is a mismatch for Iowa State.

It should be a closely contested game, but it's tournament time and no team has more experience in this setting than Kansas, so expect them to play like it.

Final Score

KU - 73

ISU - 68





 

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