No, Andrew Wiggins doesn’t look like the second coming of (insert player’s name here) so far, but he’s still one of the more talented players in the country. Kansas also have a lot more to offer than just him, like Joel Embiid, who might be the best player in the nation, and Naadir Tharpe, who took over the offensive responsibilities in the 77-70 win over Iowa State.
Kansas came into the game ranked 15th in the nation because of their four nonconference losses. Iowa State, one of five ranked Big 12 teams, have now lost their second conference game, and their impressive start to the season under Fred Hoiberg is starting to look a little less outstanding now that they’re playing against a higher quality of rivals day in and day out.
After a close first half, Kansas pulled away in the second in front of the disappointed 14,384 in Ames. Their three point shooting wouldn’t drop (16%), which helped Kansas get into their transition game, especially in the second half, and later on overcome the problem of Iowa State double teaming their key players on almost every opportunity.
Iowa State rely more than anyone in the conference on three-point shooting, getting 30.7% of their points from beyond the arc. Going completely cold (only 4-of-25), which included Georges Niang missing all nine attempts, was one of the things they simply couldn’t overcome despite DeAndre Kane scoring 21 points, adding 8 rebounds and 4 assists.
The thing about it is, if you have followed our team closely, you could make the case that this team probably enjoyed playing less than other teams we’ve had. But since we started conference play, they’re having as much fun as any team we’ve ever had. We handled the ball miserably. Looked like a third grade team out there offensively sometimes taking care of the ball. But we made up for it by being pretty good on the glass. It was a great win.
Kansas did turn the ball over 24 times, but their opportunities to go out on fast breaks made a lot of difference. Andrew Wiggins finished with 17 points and 19 boards, which helped him get into a rhythm on transition offense, scoring 7 points that way. Wiggins is the best player in the conference when it comes to scoring in transition (1.5 points per play), but continues to struggle in half court sets, held to 3-of-10 from the field on such plays.
The trio of Embiid, Wiggins and Perry Ellis had trouble with the double teams they saw in the first half. They had a combined 28 touches and scoring only 8 points. More freedom and flow in the second half led to the same amount of touches, but 20 points. Embiid finished the game with 16 points, 9 rebounds and 5 blocks. It helped hold the Cyclones to only 31.4% from the field, their worst shooting performance of the season, with Embiid now averaging 2.6 blocks per game, second in the Big 12 behind Isaiah Austin from Baylor.
Naadir Tharpe took care of the rest with a game high 23 points, looking excellent and making the most of his open shots (7-9 from the field, 3-of-4 from beyond the arc). Kansas have the talent to do a lot better then they’ve looked so far, with at least two players who can go in the top 5 of the draft next season. A little less relying on athleticism and a bit more thinking on offense might help them get over their current struggles.