Iowa State, mostly with a new cast of characters, visits Kansas’ Allen Fieldhouse on Tuesday night for the first time since last year’s shocking comeback victory over the Jayhawks.
“I think media makes a bigger deal out of crap like that than what we do. Will I mention it? Yeah I’ll mention the last time we played them they beat us in our building,” KU coach Bill Self said Monday, referring to unranked ISU’s 92-89 overtime victory over the No. 2-rated Jayhawks on Feb. 4, 2017, at Allen, where KU had won 51 straight games. The Jayhawks led by as many as 15 points in the first half and 14 at halftime that day.
“That’s not something you circle and you froth at the mouth since last April because of one game. At least that’s not how it works with me,” Self added of the revenge motive entering Tuesday’s 8 p.m. tipoff on ESPN2. “Now when Kentucky hammered us by 32 in Indianapolis? You could (before the next meeting) say, ‘Hey, remember that?’ We’ll say, ‘Hey do you remember Donovan Jackson making the big shot last year?’ That kind of thing. As far as motivation, if you have to motivate them that way, I don’t quite buy into it as much.”
Jackson, a 6-foot-2 guard from Milwaukee, cashed a three in overtime that stretched a one-point lead to four with 28 seconds left. He’s back for his senior season and, in fact, has averaged 23.2 points in games away from Hilton Coliseum — 16.7 points a game overall.
However, familiar faces such as Deonte Burton, Monte Morris, Naz Mitrou-Long and Matt Thomas have graduated. Minus those key Cyclones, this year’s squad is off to a 9-5 record, 0-3 in the Big 12, compared to No. 12 KU’s 12-3, 2-1 mark.
“Definitely,” said senior guard Svi Mykhailiuk, asked if he remembers the ISU game at Allen a year ago. He missed a three at the buzzer that could have forced a second OT. “We were upset last year. It was (the) last shot. What happened happened. We’ll try to make sure that does not happen again.”
Sophomore forward Mitch Lightfoot, who had nine points, seven rebounds and six blocks in KU’s last game, Saturday’s 88-84 victory at No. 16 TCU, said, “We understand that was a big loss for us obviously last year. We have to take each game as it comes and prepare like any other game.”
KU has dropped two of its last three home games — to Texas Tech and Arizona State with the victory over Omaha. KU last lost three games in Allen Fieldhouse during the 1998-99 season, when the Jayhawks went 10-3 at home.
“It is kind of a rarity to lose at home,” Lightfoot said. “Our goal is to obviously not let that happen again. It’s on us. We let a couple get away from us. We are going to do all we can to prepare for the next one and come out from the start with the intensity we need to have. I thought we did it at TCU versus Tech. (At TCU) we had a great start.”
Referring to KU’s two losses at Allen, Self said: “Today I’m sure we’ll talk about that. We’ve got such a great home court here and we played poorly in it the last two times we’ve played here, just not as much energy. But we’ve had some things going on with our team, like all teams do, that has allowed us not to be our best. We weren’t quite right (mentally) like we should be on those nights.
“When you are only playing seven guys predominately and one or two of those guys have an off mental day, it definitely takes 15 to 20 percent off. That’s quite a bit. In the past you could put somebody else in, make sure he produces. It’s been a little bit different (with just eight available scholarship players). Our margin for error hasn’t been as good. I think our heads are pretty good right now.”
Mykhailiuk said the Jayhawks realize there’s the potential for KU to win — or lose — any night during what appears to be a rugged Big 12 Conference slate. Iowa State, for instance, is 0-3 but two of the games reached overtime: 96-87 on Saturday at Oklahoma State and 74-70 to Texas on Jan. 1 in Ames. ISU also lost at home to Kansas State, 91-75.
“This year the league is a pretty strong league. I think there are five or six teams in the top 25,” Mykhailiuk said. On Monday, West Virginia was ranked second in the AP poll, followed by Texas Tech (eighth), Oklahoma (ninth), KU (12th) and TCU (16th). “It is kind of different than the last couple years. I think it’s good. We like to compete every time. Every game is going to be special this year because every team is a good team. We like to play against good teams. We know we will not win by 20 in any games at all going forward. The league is that good. We have to grind every game.”
If they are cleared, they will play
Self, as of 2:15 p.m. Monday, said there were no new developments in the eligibility cases of Billy Preston and Silvio De Sousa. Self did say if one or both players were cleared for participation by the NCAA by game time Tuesday, they would be used in the game.
“Right now we’re saying, ‘Here’s three things you need to know on offense. Here’s one out-of-bounds play. If they run zone here’s one thing you need to know in zone,’” Self said of 6-9 freshman forward De Sousa, still learning KU’s plays after his graduation from IMG Academy in late December. “I was talking with him today: ‘Just be able to play and do those things without thinking and you can help us.’ If he’s a thinker he won’t be able to help us much. In short spurts he can get in there and help. I don’t think it’ll be extended (minutes) until he gets more comfortable.”
Self on Newman’s slump
Self said he’s spoken with sophomore combo guard Malik Newman, who has been struggling of late. The 6-3 Newman has scored in single figures in three of four games. He had one point at TCU Saturday and zero points in the Dec. 16 win at Nebraska.
“I think he’s kind of frozen from a mindset standpoint,” Self said. “He’ll play better moving forward. We’ve talked. He knows we need him to play well. The players have told him what we’ve needed from him. The biggest thing is confidence and go make it happen.
“He’s probably hit a low point for him since he’s been here for sure,” Self added. “I can’t speak for (his time at) Mississippi State. It hasn’t gone as scripted. But he’s still averaging 10 points a game halfway through the season. If we can get 12 or 14 out of him the second half I think we’d be in pretty good shape.”