Winning on the road is one thing. Winning at Allen Fieldhouse is another.
“It’s just not a place you go down there and win very often,” said ISU coach Fred Hoiberg of the historic arena in Lawrence, Kan., home of the No. 6 Jayhawks. “If you win one there, obviously it’s huge.”
Huge, and, in recent memory, unprecedented.
In the 11 seasons since Bill Self arrived at Kansas in 2003, his Jayhawks have gone 169-9 in front of the home crowd. The Allen Fieldhouse sellout streak goes beyond that, with fans packing every available seat for 206 consecutive games dating back to the 2001-02 season.
All-time, Kansas has gone 48-9 against Iowa State at Allen Fieldhouse since it opened in 1955.
“It’s a fun place to play at, there’s a lot of energy in that building,” said sophomore Georges Niang, who experienced it for the first time last season.
The definition of fun depends on who is being asked.
“It’s fun for a lot of people; it’s not fun for the coaches,” Hoiberg said with a laugh. “It’s a cool place, it’s a great atmosphere and obviously they have a lot of history. I think the two loudest arenas, if you asked anybody in our league, would be Kansas and Iowa State. I think we’ve got the two best atmospheres.”
The low ceiling and one block of wooden bleacher seats that circle the arena have created an electric atmosphere and one of the strongest home court advantages in college basketball. Kansas doesn’t often lose at home, especially in Big 12 play.
Since the Big 12 formed for the 1996-97 season, the Jayhawks have lost only nine conference games at Allen Fieldhouse. Iowa State has handed Kansas three of those losses, winning by two points in 2000 (64-62), 2001 (79-77) and 2005 (63-61).
“Anytime you can get a road win is huge, but anytime you can go into Phog Allen and win is huge, also,” Niang said. “They don’t lose much there. If you can do that, then you have a pretty talented squad.”
The Cyclones have had chances for other victories at Allen Fieldhouse in recent memory, losing in overtime in 2004 (90-89) and last season (97-89) after Kansas’ Ben McLemore hit a 3-pointer with 1.3 seconds remaining in regulation.
“We put ourselves in a position to win there last year, and that’s not something that’s easy to do,” Hoiberg said. “Obviously we didn’t finish it off.”
No. 16 Iowa State will attempt to pull off the irregular feat Jan. 29 when it travels to Lawrence. This season the Cyclones will have two freshmen playing at Kansas for the first time. Hoiberg knows well what that is like.
“We either got beat by 30 or 40. I can’t remember the exact final score,” Hoiberg said of playing at Allen Fieldhouse his freshman season. “You can’t simulate [the atmosphere]. It’s an unbelievable place to play, I’ll say that.”
The Cyclones found that out first hand last season as 16,300 fans in attendance erupted as McLemore’s shot sent the Jayhawks to overtime.
“I don’t think any KU fan likes any opposing team that comes in and plays their Jayhawks,” Niang said. “There’s a lot of anger and it’s very loud in there.”
Iowa State players have talked often about last season, and the ISU players who will emerge from the tunnel for the first time Jan. 29 are being prepared.
“It’s going to be a step for me being a freshman and playing in that atmosphere,” said freshman Monte Morris. “I watch it on TV, and they usually say if it’s loud on TV, it’s louder in real life.”
Wins at Allen Fieldhouse don’t come easy. When they do come, though, Iowa State knows how important they are.
“If you beat them down there in front of that crowd, that’s one of the games you remember and tell your kids about,” said senior DeAndre Kane.