No. 12 Iowa State (15-4, 6-2 in Big 12) moved into first place in the Big 12 with Kansas State and Texas. While they share that mantle, the Cyclones would be the No. 1 seed in the Big 12 Tournament if it started today because they’ve beaten both the Wildcats and the Longhorns. Iowa State also beat a Top 10 team for the third time this year.
No. 5 Kansas State (17-3, 6-2 in Big 12) was off to its best start in 61 years going into Tuesday’s game. The Wildcats became the first Big 12 team to score 70 or more points against Iowa State, but it didn’t lead to a win.
How Iowa State Won
With a complete, balanced offensive game. And when the Cyclones can complement that with their stifling defense, they’re awfully hard to beat.
Jaren Holmes put up 23 points and dished out seven assists. At one point, Holmes scored 10 straight points for the Cyclones. That helped give the Cyclones a six-point lead.
Gabe Kalscheur scored 19 points and, naturally, hit cold-blooded shots all night. His last was a mid-range shot off a screen with 45 seconds left to give ISU a four-point lead, a lead the Cyclones nursed the rest of the way.
Osun Osunniyi scored 16 points and went 8-for-11 from the free throw line. At one point he scored nine points in a row, with his last points giving the Cyclones a 73-71 lead with 56 seconds left.
Tamin Lipsey added 10 points, and even though the Wildcats dared him to shoot a 3-pointer all night, he didn’t do it. Instead he had six rebounds and four assists.
Iowa State shot 57 percent from the floor, 31 percent from the 3-point line and 76 percent from the free-throw line. Iowa State cleaned up off turnovers, scoring 25 points off of Kansas State’s miscues, and outrebounded the Wildcats, 28-20.
Yes, Kansas State did things against Iowa State that other teams haven’t been able to do on offense. But the offense won the day for the Cyclones.
How Kansas State Lost
You look at this game on paper and it’s hard to see how the Wildcats lost. They shot 52 percent from the floor, including 56 percent from the 3-point line. They shot 68 percent from the free-throw line.
Guard Markquis Nowell had a great game, scoring 23 points and dishing out nine assists. The Wildcats got a nice boost from Cam Carter, who scored 15 points, most of which came in the first half. Same from Ismael Massoud, who scored 13 points and drained four 3-pointers, most of which came in the second half.
Even Keyontae Johnson managed a double-double, as he scored 15 points and grabbed 10 rebounds. It took a while, though.
And that, perhaps, is the mushy reason why the Wildcats lost. The Cyclones made them work for everything they got. Nothing was easy or effortless. Kansas State was minus-8 in rebounding and minus-12 in points off turnovers. They were also minus-six in points in the paint.
Yet, Kansas State was in it until the end. But, Iowa State built a 10-point lead midway through the second half and never lost it, no matter how close Kansas State got. So, it was the rare night that Kansas State couldn’t get over the mountain.
This Big 12 Race, Man
It’s probably a good thing that the Big 12 gets a palate cleanser this weekend with the SEC Challenge. The last 10 games of Big 12 play are going to be an absolute street fight.
Iowa State, as noted above, is tied with Kansas State and Texas with two league losses each. But, right behind that trio are Baylor, Kansas and TCU, each of which have three losses.
After Saturday, there will be 10 Big 12 games remaining. Most of these six teams have to play each other at least one more time. There is clear separation between these six and the remaining four Big 12 teams. That much is clear.
What isn’t clear is who is going to win, or share, the regular-season league title. And that is going to make for quite possibly the most exciting league race in recent memory.
You can find Matthew Postins on Twitter @PostinsPostcard