The emotion figured to favor Iowa State in the Big 12 semifinal.
The Cyclones had dropped both regular-season contests with Kansas in overtime, the second in a game so controversial the Big 12 saw fit to announce punishment of officials for errors made in the game that favored the Jayhawks.
So, how did Iowa State come away with its second worst loss of the year, 88-73?
Perhaps the Cyclones were too revved.
“Our emotion level was high, and we were riding that a little bit,” forward Melvin Ejim said. “Then it kind of died off, and the game took over.”
Precisely. Iowa State threw the first haymaker. Kansas’ guard Ben McLemore threw a bad pass 12 seconds into the game for a turnover, and the Jayhawks had four miscues by the first media timeout. Iowa State led 12-4.
The Cyclones’ substantial following out shouted the greater Kansas numbers and Iowa State – the nation’s most productive three-point shooting team – may have be a spurt away here from changing the game’s nature.
But Kansas dug in defensively and held Iowa State without a field goal for the next six minutes. The Jayhawks had caught and passed the Cyclones by then, and whatever emotional edge Iowa State held was gone.
The Cyclones were down enough that Coach Fred Hoiberg believed a bit of showmanship was in order. In a huddle during a timeout, he picked up a chair and slammed it down.
“I don’t know that I tossed it,” Hoiberg said. “I just picked it up and put it back down.”
“Yeah, I was trying to get us going a little bit,” Hoiberg said.
What disappointed Hoiberg most were hustle plays. He thought Kansas make more of them.
“We needed to get those 50-50 balls, and rebounds,” Ejim said. “We didn’t do that.”
Kansas won the board battle 40-30, a day after Iowa State outrebounded Oklahoma 43-31.
The other measure that doomed the Cyclones was perimeter shooting. They shoot and make more and for a greater percentage than any Big 12 team, averaging nearly 10 per game while hitting 37.7 percent. But Friday, Iowa State went nine for 33 (27.3 percent).
The Jayhawks made it a point to quickly get to the shooters, reduce the free looks that helped Iowa State’s offense flow in the regular-season games.
Meanwhile, for the third time this season a Kansas player had a career-type game against Iowa State. In Lawrence, Ben McLemore had 33. In Ames, Elijah Johnson finished with 39. Friday, it was freshman Perry Ellis’ turn with a season-best 23 points.
“He did a great job finishing the dump downs,” Iowa State’s Georges Niang said. “The kid played a good game and weren’t expecting that.”
What Iowa State is expecting is a second-straight NCAA Tournament at-large invitation. The Cyclones are 22-11 and their case is a good one based on the number of quality victories. Hoiberg is already pointed in that direction.
“We’ll regroup after Selection Sunday and put a game plan together for our opponent on Monday,” he said. “We’re excited to be moving on and play meaningful games this time of year.”
The Friday games involving Kansas, Iowa State, Kansas State and Oklahoma State had the advantage of being the four schools closest to Kansas City.
“He may have taught you all some new words,” Johnson said. “But I know Coach better than the average person around.
“If you ask me if I could be a referee in practice, he would get a technical every couple of minutes. That’s just the way he expresses himself. If he feels a strong way about something, he usually shows that.”
Kansas has contributed once to each category, falling to Bradley in the first game after winning the 2006 title and winning the national championship in 2008.