AMES, Iowa (AP)—Kansas coach Bill Self asked Brandon Rush to guard Iowa State’s top scorer late in regulation, hoping the move would swing momentum back in the Jayhawks’ favor.
Rush came through—on both ends of the floor—and saved No. 6 Kansas from yet another loss to an unranked team.
Sasha Kaun scored 13 points and Rush added two key baskets late in overtime, the second off a steal of Mike Taylor, to lead Kansas past Iowa State 68-64 on Saturday.
The Jayhawks (15-2, 2-0 Big 12), who lost to Oral Roberts and DePaul in non-conference play, almost stumbled again—just three days after pounding No. 9 Oklahoma State by 30.
But Iowa State (11-6, 2-1) couldn’t put it away. The Cyclones shot 42.9 percent from the free throw line and were outrebounded 48-32, allowing Kansas to extend its winning streak to nine games.
“We didn’t play our best game, but Iowa State had a lot to do with it,” Self said. “Brandon made some big plays at big moments and that’s what good players do.”
Rush tied the game at 63 on an alley-oop dunk with 1:52 left in OT. Rush then stripped Taylor on the other end, and his dunk gave Kansas a two-point lead.
Rush clogged Taylor’s open space, got a hand on the ball and went coast-to-coast for the go-ahead basket.
“I sensed that he thought he had a clear lane to go in. I just reached in and tapped it from behind and got a nice steal,” said Rush. “And a nice dunk at the end, too. Steal of the game.”
Iowa State had a chance to tie, but Corey McIntosh was called for a travel. Mario Chalmers converted two free throws to put the Jayhawks up by four with 21.9 second left.
Taylor’s free throw pulled the Cyclones back within three. Iowa State put Julian Wright on the line with 5.9 seconds left, and he clinched the win with a free throw.
Despite the loss, the Cyclones’ performance was yet another sign that first-year coach Greg McDermott’s rebuilding plan is ahead of schedule. Iowa State brought only four scholarship players back from last year’s squad, but Taylor, a junior college transfer, and freshman Wesley Johnson have led a group of newcomers that have exceeded the limited expectations most had for the Cyclones.
Taylor led all scorers with 21 points. Johnson added 14 points and 11 boards for Iowa State.
“We are definitely getting there. I am proud of them,” McDermott said. “We stuck to our plan today and made some shots. We just came up short.”
Kansas trailed much of the second half, but Wright’s free throw with 2:17 left tied the game at 53. Freshman Dodie Dunson buried a 3-pointer to give Iowa State a 58-55 lead with 1:11 left, but Rush answered with a three on the other end to tie the game at 58.
Jiri Hubalek then missed inside for Iowa State, giving Kansas possession with no shot clock. Kansas had nearly 20 seconds to look for a quality shot, but Mario Chalmers got stuck on the wing and could only manage a long jumper that bounced off the rim as time expired in regulation.
“Tonight we were ready for everything Kansas was going to bring us,” Taylor said. “You could not ask more of the team.”
The Jayhawks opened the second half on a 12-3 run and took a six-point lead. Robinson’s 3-point play put Kansas ahead, and Kaun and Wright added baskets in the paint that pushed the Jayhawks’ lead to 39-33.
Taylor answered back for the Cyclones, hitting three 3-pointers and a layup to put the Cyclones ahead 51-48. Self put Rush on Taylor shortly thereafter, and Taylor went without a field goal the rest of the way.
“It was a good move by coach Self to switch it up and give Mike a different look,” McDermott said. “Baskets were hard to come by.”
Kansas had turned the ball over less than its opponent in every game this season, but Iowa State forced the Jayhawks into 16 turnovers—seven of which were committed by Wright.
Chalmers had 11 points for Kansas, and Wright added eight points and 12 rebounds.
The Jayhawks, who have as many wins over Top 10 teams, two, as it has losses over unranked teams, have been criticized for playing to the level of their competition.
Kansas wasn’t buying that theory Saturday.
“This was nothing like Oral Roberts,” Kaun said. “We knew it would be a tough matchup.”