MANHATTAN, Kan. — At postgame interviews, the players knew it.
Following Iowa State’s 79-70 loss to Kansas State, the players knew one of the big reasons they failed to come away from the “Octagon of Doom” with a win and a share of the No. 1 spot in the Big 12.
Only 45 seconds into the second half, with the score 35-34, the Cyclones’ floor general and biggest source of offense, Korie Lucious, picked up his third foul. The result was a run from Kansas State (19-4, 8-2 Big 12) while Iowa State (16-7, 6-4) struggled for direction offensively.
“He went out right away and got his third and it is tough,” said ISU coach Fred Hoiberg. “The guy that’s been leading your charge and the guy that goes out there and runs the show for you is in foul trouble like that.”
A similar result occurred in the first half when Iowa State held a 26-19 lead — 10 of those points being scored by Lucious — after climbing out of an initial 14-5 hole.
Lucious picked up his second foul with 5:59 left in the stanza. Kansas State controlled the remaining time, finishing on a 14-6 run.
If it weren’t for Tyrus McGee’s extra-terrestrial stretch in the second half where he had 11-straight points for Iowa State — including three 3-pointers off screens before coming back down to earth — the Cyclones would have found themselves behind double digits 6 minutes into the second half.
Will Clyburn, coming in fresh off of a 28-point dismantling of Oklahoma, struggled with turnovers and never found a comfortable rhythm. He finished with only 6 points on 2-of-9 shooting with five turnovers.
“It’s hard,” Lucious said of his team’s leading scorer. “Will’s our leading scorer. [When] he’s not really playing well, or how we want him to play, Tyrus not hitting shots or foul trouble, whatever the case may be, it’s hard.”
Another common theme for the struggle at Bramlage Coliseum was offensive rebounds, especially in the second half and at crucial times. Kansas State took over the paint in the second half, outscoring Iowa State on second-chance points 17-3.
Iowa State also struggled to take care of the ball, turning it over 20 times, which was the most turnovers in a Big 12 game this season.
Both Hoiberg and Lucious responded the same to what made the difference in the game: turnovers and offensive rebounds.
Kansas State’s Thomas Gipson was virtually a non-factor in Iowa State’s 73-67 win on Jan. 26 in Ames, playing only nine minutes due to foul trouble with only 4 points.
At Bramlage Coliseum, the 6-foot-5, 260-pound left-hander was a game-changer, scoring 16 points on only eight shots and bringing down seven rebounds, three of which were offensive.
“We’re undersized a lot and when you go to your small lineup like we have quite a bit lately, it’s been effective for us,” Hoiberg said. “But if you’ve got a big guy like that, it’ll expose you.”
The Big 12’s former leading scorer, Rodney McGruder, offered up his case for a Big 12 first-teamer with 22 points, while KSU point guard Angel Rodriguez switched roles between the game at Hilton and Bramlage, scoring 20 points.
“That’s not a good team, that’s a great team,” Hoiberg said.
“They’re well-coached and they’ve got veteran players. They’re very difficult to defend because of all their weapons out there.”