AMES, Iowa — Kansas basketball’s unofficial 25th and final turnover Saturday took place an hour after the final buzzer, occurred in the bowels of Hilton Coliseum and subbed in a condiment for the roundball that so often caused the fifth-ranked Jayhawks fits.
“Oh,” assistant coach Jerrance Howard groaned, his cup of ranch sauce falling from his overloaded hands and exploding — turned over, of course — at the doorway to an arena exit KU must’ve been longing to pass through for at least 90 minutes at that point in time.
The sauce was unsalvageable, as was the Jayhawks’ trip to Ames.
Iowa State 77, Kansas 60.
“How was you guys’ day?” KU coach Bill Self deadpanned as he sat down for his postgame news conference.
The Jayhawks (12-2, 1-1 Big 12) committed 24 turnovers Saturday, and in every way imaginable — careless passes, pickpocket steals, shot clock violations, charges. The team’s final turnover — a behind-the-back attempt on a fastbreak from reserve guard K.J. Lawson to reserve forward Mitch Lightfoot, easily intercepted by ISU’s Nick Weiler-Babb — was emblematic of a rotten afternoon for a group that entered averaging 14.9 giveaways.
“We’ve played like crap a lot, up here, and somehow we hang around at the 10-minute mark and veterans figure out a way. There was none of that today,” Self said. “As young as our guards are, and this includes even Lagerald (Vick), we played very, very, very immature today. We didn’t play selfish as much as we played, how’s the correct way to put this? We were, I guess it is selfish, but not from a basketball standpoint, but everybody went into their own little cocoon when things went poorly as opposed to galvanizing a group.”
While the Cyclones (12-2, 2-0) got only 20 points off those turnovers, they tortured the Jayhawks in other ways.
Led by a sensational 24-point, five-3 performance from the Big 12′s leading scorer Marial Shayok, ISU drained 13 of 25 attempts from beyond the arc, including 9 of 13 in the second half. Shayok, who entered the game averaging 19.8 points in his first year playing after transferring in from Virginia, drilled open look after open look to finish with a 5-of-5 evening from distance.
Meanwhile, KU’s leading scorer and first-year contributor Dedric Lawson scuffled, the junior forward harassed all evening into a 13-point, 12-rebound performance. Lawson played out of the five-spot, a necessity with starting center Udoka Azubuike sidelined as a precautionary measure stemming from a wrist injury suffered at Friday’s practice.
“We struggled getting the ball in to him in tight,” Self said of Lawson. “I don’t know if you guys noticed, but we really struggled passing, dribbling and shooting. And that to me was probably the key reason why all of our individuals didn’t look real good offensively.”
KU struggled early but made ISU play just as poorly, trailing at the break by just four points. The second half was a different animal, with the Jayhawks not guarding the Cyclones “at all,” Self observed.
Self compared the flow of this contest to that of so many throughout his tenure at KU, but one in particular — his team’s 71-66 victory last season at West Virginia, a Devonte’ Graham-and-Svi-Mykhailiuk-fueled comeback of 16 points that featured the senior guard duo turning on the afterburners late.
A similar story could’ve been authored Saturday, but it was never to be.
“That never had a chance to materialize today because Iowa State was better than us, but also because we didn’t have the leadership, yet, that needs to develop so that we can be in situations like this and actually perform better,” Self said.
Quentin Grimes scored a team-high 19 points on 7-for-14 shooting, at one point scoring 14 straight team points for the Jayhawks. Even he, though, didn’t earn a positive review from Self on an evening where starters Vick, Lawson and Devon Dotson combined for 18 of the team’s turnovers.
“Guys, let’s not get carried away. Every team that lost today had a leading scorer, OK?” Self said. “Even though I’m happy (Grimes) saw the ball go in the hole, I’m not leaving out here thinking, ‘Whoa, yeah, we’re turning the corner.’ Bad teams have leading scorers, and today we were a bad team and had a leading scorer.”
Were the Jayhawks’ late struggles a result of insufficient effort or poor execution? Self was unsure.
“I’ve got to watch the tape— well, I don’t know if I will or not,” he joked. “But I would say our effort wasn’t bad the first half. I thought we tried pretty hard. I thought when it got unraveling in the second half, I thought we lost it, we lost all composure and didn’t compete as hard.”
Tyrese Haliburton (14 points, 4 of 5 on 3s) and the Topeka native Weiler-Babb (12 points) rounded out the double-figure scorers for the Cyclones.
“The one thing is, it’s one game. Now the sky is falling (in) an 18-game season? The sky’s not falling, even though we sucked and we’ve got to correct some stuff,” Self said. “The thing that is good about getting beat rather than getting edged — I mean, we were beat today — is it’s very evident we have deficiencies and they need to be worked (on). Nobody’s going to leave out of here thinking, ‘Yeah, it wasn’t that bad.’ I mean, everybody’s going to leave out of here knowing how bad it actually was, and sometimes that’s not an awful thing to get your team’s attention, at least in my experiences.”
Eyes now turn to Sunday, when Azubuike is scheduled for an MRI. Self said initial X-rays came back clean and there’s nothing that indicates this will be a season-ending ailment.
Perhaps Azubuike, who watched from the sideline with a black cast over his right wrist, will even be back in time for the Jayhawks’ next contest, an 8 p.m. Wednesday tilt against TCU at Allen Fieldhouse in Lawrence.
Regardless, the team will look to get right after a season-worst showing, a bad performance Self observed his team typically has once a campaign.
“We got this one, hopefully, out of the way early in the year. So that means the rest of the season should be smooth sailing,” he quipped.