The consistent theme Kansas might have to accept moving forward is the inconsistency of its production in the post.
After opening Big 12 play with strong performances from both of its big men by inserting Mitch Lightfoot as the starter over David McCormack, each fizzled when the No. 6 Jayhawks had their eight-game winning streak snapped Saturday.
Kansas (12-2, 1-1) will attempt to rebound Tuesday night when it plays its Big 12 home opener against No. 11 Iowa State (13-2, 1-2) at Lawrence, Kan.
Kansas coach Bill Self opted not to pin Saturday’s 75-67 defeat the Jayhawks suffered at Texas Tech “on any one position or any one guy” despite his team getting outscored 44-18 in the paint, where Lightfoot and McCormack combined for four points and six rebounds.
Self went on to point out that “we didn’t protect the rim, they score at will inside, we don’t score inside and we don’t rebound. That’s not a great combination that our big guys could go a combined four points and got a combined eight (actually six) rebounds.”
The Jayhawks’ defensive shortcomings include the need for Ochai Agbaji “to become a better defender for us to have a chance to be better,” Self said. Agbaji has been a prolific threat who led the nation in scoring earlier this season.
The Jayhawks’ performance against Texas Tech, an opponent that used eight players while missing its top two scorers, creates some doubts whether Kansas could emerge as a Big 12 contender capable of unseating the reigning league and national champion, undefeated Baylor.
The defeat also points to the difficulty conference rivals will face when traveling, although Jalen Wilson cited the Jayhawks’ lack of energy after he scored a season-high 20 points against Texas Tech.
“They brought all the energy, all the effort, punked us in a sense,” Wilson told the Kansas City Star. “That’s unacceptable, especially with how Kansas basketball is on the road. We’re always the ones bringing the energy.”
Complications involving travel have been far more significant for Iowa State, which will carry a 22-game conference road losing streak into the game at Kansas. The Cyclones led by four at halftime Saturday, only to fall 79-66 at Oklahoma. Iowa State did not shoot a free throw until inside the final two minutes.
Three days after winning a 51-47 slugfest against Texas Tech, the Cyclones allowed 81.8 percent shooting from the field in the second half as Oklahoma went 18-for-22.
“Defensively, we got out of character,” Iowa State coach T.J. Otzelberger told the Des Moines Register. “Our ball pressure wasn’t very good. We weren’t the aggressor the way like we’ve been all year long. We have to be who we can be, and that’s an elite defensive team.”
Iowa State allows an average of 58.4 points per game while Kansas scores 83.1. Izaiah Brockington leads the Cyclones in scoring (17.0) and rebounding (8.1).
The Cyclones started 12-0 under Otzelberger, who was hired after the Cyclones’ winless Big 12 run last season. Iowa State has lost two of three since opening conference play.
–Field Level Media