Blair Kerkhoff

Iowa State runs into rough stretch

Updated: 2014-01-21T19:35:06Z

By BLAIR KERKHOFF

The Kansas City Star

Let’s take The Associated Press poll released Monday and determine which Big 12 team among the leaders has the toughest schedule stretch.

Six teams are ranked. Another, Texas, is receiving votes. Using those seven teams, the most difficult run among leaders belongs to Iowa State.

The Cyclones are in the throes of eight straight against the powerhouses, and this helps explains Iowa State’s three-game skid heading into Saturday’s home meeting against Kansas State.

It’s also why coach Fred Hoiberg isn’t sounding the alarm after the Cyclones dropped from No. 8 to 16th in this week’s poll.

“It’s a resilient group,” Hoiberg said. “They’ll get after it this week.”

Iowa State opened the season with a school-record 14 straight victories, a fast start that included victories over currently ranked teams Michigan and Iowa.

But after beginning league play with victories over Texas Tech and Baylor, the Cyclones lost at Oklahoma, fell at home to Kansas and are coming off a loss at Texas.

Iowa State can point to different issues for the losses. Against the Sooners and Jayhawks, the Cyclones shot a combined 10 for 51 (19.6 percent) on three-pointers, with George Niang missing all 12 of his attempts.

Iowa State has been ranked among the nation’s best ball-handling teams but committed 18 turnovers against the Longhorns, including five straight late in the first half that allowed Texas to make up a nine -point deficit and forge a halftime tie.

“I thought turnovers really plagued us for the time this year,” said Hoiberg.

In this Big 12, Iowa State’s load isn’t lightened. The next four: Kansas State, at Kansas, Oklahoma, at Oklahoma. All ranked teams.

RANKING THE BIG 12

1. Kansas

2. Kansas State

3. Oklahoma State

4. Oklahoma

5. Iowa State

6. Baylor

7. Texas

8. West Virginia

9. Texas Tech

10. TCU

Comment: Kansas State and Oklahoma had swapped places in the AP poll at No. 25. Now both are in, and maybe Texas should be.

Big 12 player of the week: Naadir Tharpe, Kansas: Averaged 22 points, five assists in victories over Iowa State and Oklahoma State

Big 12 newcomer: Joel Embiid, Kansas: Second-time winner of this honor after week of 14.5 points, 10 rebounds, 6.5 blocks

RANKING THE SEC

1. Florida

2. Kentucky

3. Missouri

4. Tennessee

5. Georgia

6. Texas A&M

7. Mississippi

8. Arkansas

9. Mississippi State

10. LSU

11. Vanderbilt

12. Alabama

13. Auburn

14. South Carolina

Comment: Two ways to look at Arkansas: two overtime losses (Florida, Georgia) away from a great run, or a Kentucky failed box-out away in overtime from possible three-game losing streak.

SEC player of the week: Marshall Henderson, Mississippi: College hoops’ favorite bad boy averaged 22 points and 3.5 assists in victories over LSU and South Carolina.

Freshman of the week: Davonte Fitzgerald, Texas A&M: In two games, the 6-7 Fitzgerald averaged 16.5 points and 3.5 boards.

To reach Blair Kerkhoff, call 816-234-4730 or send email to bkerkhoff@kcstar.com. Follow him at twitter.com/BlairKerkhoff.

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