Big 12 tests continue for No. 13 Kansas, Iowa State
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The Big 12 Conference meat-grinder has taken its toll on Iowa State this season, and it's starting to chew its way through the early frontrunners, one of which was Kansas.
The Cyclones, who have posted decisive victories over the past two ranked teams they've played at home, will be riding great momentum when they host the 13th-ranked Jayhawks on Tuesday at Hilton Coliseum in Ames, Iowa.
Iowa State's most recent win was on Saturday when it led wire to wire on the way to an 88-80 victory over No. 17 Oklahoma.
The win was the third of the season over a ranked team for the Cyclones, and all three have been at home. It's when Iowa State hits the road that it has its problems; the Cyclones are 1-7 in true road games this year.
"I wish I knew the reason," Iowa State coach Steve Prohm said. "We'd have a better road record if I did. But we've just got to keep searching."
The Cyclones (13-11, 4-8 Big 12) are still at the bottom of the conference standings but have been encouraged by their recent results as they head to the final third of the Big 12 season.
"This is where you've got to play your best basketball," Prohm said. "There's stories all over the place of teams finishing strong in conference play and making a great push. But at some point, you've got to be tough enough to go win on the road."
The first thing Iowa State has to focus on is Kansas, the Big 12's lingering elephant in the room. The Jayhawks have won 13 straight conference championships but have struggled some this season, including Saturday when they were dominated in an 80-64 loss at Baylor.
The setback was the second in four games for Kansas (19-6, 8-4) and pushed the Jayhawks down to second place in the conference standings, looking up at No. 7 Texas Tech.
Kansas coach Bill Self admitted after Saturday's loss to Baylor that his team is still not where it needs to be as far as chemistry and execution.
"We know what we need to do to be pretty good and have a chance to really compete at a relatively high level," Self said. "The players haven't quite bought into that totally yet. It's getting late in the season to see if they are going to buy into it."
Kansas is just 4-2 on the road in Big 12 play this year and, in essence, is stepping into a lion's den as it travels to Ames to play a team that has won five straight home conference games.
"It's not about winning and losing, it's about, 'Hey, this is what we need to do to be good. This is what we need to do in order to give us the best chance,'" Self said about his team's play.
"I'm tired of rewarding guys to start whenever I feel like those things are not taking place. It doesn't have anything to do with making shots. You can miss all the shots you want to. At least from an intangible standpoint, give us stuff."
In Kansas' Big 12 championships streak, the Jayhawks have never been below second place on Feb. 10. Kansas has sat second five times (2006, 2007, 2009, 2011 and 2013) yet overcame and went on to win outright or share the conference title in all five of those years.
A victory on Tuesday would garner Kansas its 20th win for a 29th consecutive season, beginning in 1989-90, extending a run that is the longest active streak in the NCAA.
Updated February 12, 2018