That was Kansas’ best win of the season.
PODCAST LINK FOR MOBILE LISTENERS: LINK
They’ve scored wins against the team that currently holds the No. 1 ranking, the best team in the Big Ten, and the defending national champions, yet Monday’s victory over Iowa State was the most important victory Kansas has picked up all season. The reason? If 15 straight was ever going to be a thing, getting this one under their belt had to happen.
A wild first half frustrated Bill Self and KU fans, as defense was a struggle for the first 20 minutes. Early in the second half, the Jayhawks fell behind by eight, Self called a timeout, and a season-defining moment was upon KU. Winning the next 17 minutes would be pivotal. Starting slow in Big 12 play hasn’t proven to be a knockout blow in previous conference races, but this season has a different feel.
Holding serve at home has never been more important to the Jayhawks’ chances of winning a conference title than it does in 2019. Iowa State, Kansas State, and Texas Tech have all already lost a home game this year. The Jayhawks don’t appear to be considerably better than any of those teams, so they need to take advantage in every way that they can.
Should the Jayhawks finish the year 9-0 at home, they’re essentially guaranteed to go 13-5 at worst in conference play. For anybody else to finish better than that, they would essentially have to play perfect basketball the rest of the season, which isn’t going to happen. Holding serve at home essentially clinches the Big 12 title, as it has so many times in the past. Iowa State, one of the contenders to end Kansas’ run of titles, was set to sweep the Jayhawks and take a massive step towards announcing themselves as a true threat to “the streak.” The last 17 minutes of that Big Monday game were the most important 17 minutes of Kansas’ season to date, because had they lost that contest, there would be no 15 straight.
Dedric Lawson played his best basketball of the season, Lagerald Vick hit some huge shots, and the defense played their best half of the year. When push comes to shove, Bill Self’s teams are always at their best when the conference race is at its thickest. Iowa State got whatever it wanted on offense for about 25 minutes, and suddenly, with Allen Fieldhouse roaring at full-force, the defense flipped a switch. A 14-0, vintage Allen Fieldhouse run flipped the game and secured a win for the Jayhawks. It was the same game I feel like I’ve watched 40 times over the course of Kansas’ 14-year run of titles.
Monday’s game might not wind up being the one you remember this season for, but one thing is for certain: lose that one and “the streak” officially enters jeopardy territory for the first time this year. They didn’t, and because they didn’t, they’re in first place entering the Big 12/SEC Challenge break. It’s why Kansas wins the Big 12 every year – they don’t lose at home while everyone else does. And when Kansas inevitably wins the Big 12 again this season, you’ll remember the home win over Iowa State for being as important as any victory as they had in January or February.