LAWRENCE — When grief comes Tyshawn Taylor’s way, Kansas Coach Bill Self makes it point to offer praise to maintain confidence.
When Taylor plays well, Self tempers his point guard’s enthusiasm. It’s a delicate balance.
“When your point guard gets 21 attempts and our best player gets zero in the second half, that’s not good,” Self said…with a smile.
Kansas doesn’t come from behind to beat Iowa State 82-73 on Saturday were it not for Taylor’s sizzling second half.
With Thomas Robinson on the bench — the game was flowing fine for Kansas without him — Taylor took over, scoring 22 after halftime to finish with a career-best 28.
“I had to do something, I had to make something happen,” Taylor said.
Kansas needed all of the production. Iowa State had control of the game for the first 25 minutes, leading by as many as 12 early in the second half.
But Taylor started his take over. His soft jumper with 14:16 remaining closed to the deficit to 52-47.
About six minutes later, when Taylor’s three-pointer settled in the twine, the Jayhawks had a 70-61 lead and Taylor had 15 of those points.
“I heard the bench going crazy the whole time, the crowd was going crazy,” Taylor said. “It was just one of those feelings you get when you’re playing.”
And it’s better than those feelings Taylor gets when fans rag him for the occasional careless ball-handling. He fired back at some critics last week on his Twitter account.
But Saturday, there was only praise, and Self feeling the need to hold some back.
The Jayhawks were exhilarated by Taylor’s flurry that got them the lead, but they weren’t out of the woods. Iowa State quickly responded to make it a two-point game, but there was Taylor again, scoring to make it a two-possession game with 6:48 remaining.
Taylor wasn’t alone in reshaping the game. Jeff Withey turned in an excellent line of 13 points, 11 rebounds and seven blocked shots with six of the swats coming in the second half that helped cool off Cyclones shooters.
The Kansas comeback was happening largely without Robinson, who played 14 minutes in the second half. He wasn’t in foul trouble, but the Jayhawks seemed to operate efficiently without him. That likely won’t be the case on Monday when fourth-ranked and undefeated Baylor visits Lawrence.
But Robinson liked what he saw unfolding in front of him, and it wasn’t like he didn’t contribute. Only top players can score 11 points, grab 14 rebounds and call it a below average day.
“I thought (Taylor) was amazing,” Robinson said. “He put the team on his back.”
Iowa State sizzling start was responsible for the heavy load. The team that has shown great improvement in Coach Fred Hoiberg’s second season but was coming off a mid-week home loss to Missouri was fearless.
It started with Royce White, who added a new touch to his versatility. White leads the Cyclones in scoring, rebounding and assists but hadn’t attempted a three-pointer this season. Pop! Pop! He buried two on the Cyclones’ first three possessions.
Less than five minutes in, Iowa State had landed the haymaker and took a 10-point lead. Hoiberg, a former Iowa State star guard, knows was an accomplishment this was.
“They come out of that locker room and in the first five minutes it can feel like they have six players on the floor,” Hoiberg said. “I thought we did a very good job getting into our tempo.”
A great job. Iowa State led by as many as 11 in the first half but with White on the bench with his second foul for the final five minutes, Kansas trimmed the deficit to 43-40 at halftime.
Surely, the Jayhawks would be ready for the second half.
Nope. The Cyclones’ lead soared to 52-40. Kansas entered the game 137-7 at home under Self, and for a while this looking like the rare KU home loss.
But Iowa State’s shooting — the Cyclones made seven of 13 threes in the first half — turned cold on a combination of curious shot selection, Kansas defense and a heavy dose of Taylor.
“He hit some big time shots down the stretch,” White said. “Some of it was probably because of our blown defense, but he had a big game.”
Well, an OK game, what with Robinson not getting any field goal attempts in the second half.