Andrew Wiggins, Joel Embiid, and Naadir Tharpe were the stars of the show tonight as the #15 Kansas Jayhawks (12-4, 3-0) traveled into the Hilton Coliseum in Ames, Iowa to take on the Big-12 Player of the Year front-runner Deandre Kane and the #8 ranked Iowa State Cyclones (14-2, 2-2).
The Jayhawks started the game off strong, springing to a quick 15-4 lead before the Cyclones began to claw back thanks to a multitude of Kansas turnovers and a lack of defensive transition. Iowa State scrapped their way back into the game and after a Deandre Kane 3-point basket at the buzzer, the Cyclones managed to enter half-time tied at 36 with the talented Jayhawks.
Freshman Andrew Wiggins showed up in full force tonight, showing the nation just how effective he can be. The Canadian-native broke his career record for rebounds in a game (11) in the first half, corralling 12 total and adding 11 points for a first-half double-double. Wiggins’ most dangerous form is out in transition where he can use his height and length to his advantage attacking the basket. The Freshman phenom finished the contest with 17 points on 7-16 shooting and a career-high 19 rebounds.
Kansas started the second half on a 15-4 run and led the rest of the way to their 77-70 win over Iowa State.
Despite Andrew’s outstanding performance and career rebounding performance, the night’s biggest star was the 7-0 Freshman Joel Embiid. Coaches, analysts, even NBA GM’s have been raving about the Cameroon-native and his incredibly high ceiling. Embiid is a complete, yet raw package that with some fine tuning could turn out to be quite a gem. His presence alone has a clear effect on the opposition’s ability to attack the rim, and when he does get attacked he has fantastic focus blocking shots. On the offensive end, Embiid is growing each and every game, learning to mentally cope with the double-teams and make sound decisions to take care of the ball. Embiid finished with 16 points on 7-8 shooting from the field, while adding 9 rebounds and 5 emphatic blocks.
Naadir Tharpe also had a career night, scoring a career-high 23 points on 7-9 shooting. Tharpe came out hot and started the game with 7-7 shooting (5-5, 14 points in 1st half). The Junior Guard also added 6 rebounds and 4 assists in the Jayhawks victory.
The lone negative spot of Kansas’ performance tonight was the Jayhawks 24 turnovers. Carelessness with the basketball plagued the Jayhawks all night but fortunately did not cost them the game in the end. For as talented as this team is, the players seem to consistently have these foggy moments where they make outrageously bad decisions with the basketball. 17 of the 24 Kansas turnovers came from the trio of Tharpe (4), Wiggins (6), and Embiid (7). The Jayhawks, however, owned the glass tonight, out rebounding the Cyclones 53-36.
Iowa State managed to keep the game in arm’s reach regardless of the stranglehold Kansas seemed to have on the game all night. Deandre Kane, one of four double-digit scorers for ISU, led the way scoring 23 points on 6-13 shooting and 8-16 from the free-throw line. Also finishing in double figures was Melvin Ejim (15), Dustin Hogue (13), and Georges Niang (11). Iowa State, who is fueled by their three-point shooting, was ice-cold from start to finish, managing to only bury an abysmal 16% (4-25) from beyond the arc.
Kansas improves to 3-0 in Big-12 play and accomplishes this feat for the 8th consecutive season. Kansas, who has performed spectacularly through the first half of a big 4-game stretch, still has two monster match-ups left go to. The next stop is back home in Lawrence where the Jayhawks will welcome the #9 Oklahoma State Cowboys and Player of the Year candidate Marcus Smart into Phog Allen Fieldhouse Saturday afternoon.