Emily Blobaum/Iowa State Daily
Photo by Iowa State senior Monte Morris looks on during their game against Kansas Jan. 16 at Hilton Coliseum. The No. 2 Jayhawks defeated the Cyclones 76-72.
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One last go-around

Iowa State travels to No. 3 Kansas in search of a big win

Iowa State point guard Monté Morris has been through his fair share of games at the infamous Phog Allen Fieldhouse, but he has never left with a victory.  

The prolific senior has played three games against Kansas at its home arena, losing by a combined 29 points. 

Now, Morris  — for the fourth and final time — and the rest of Iowa State (13-8, 5-4 Big 12) will travel to Lawrence, Kansas, on Saturday for a 1 p.m. game against No. 3 Kansas (20-2, 8-1 Big 12) in search of a big victory. Coach Bill Self is 206-9 at Allen Fieldhouse, and the Cyclones haven't won there since 2005. 

"It's a game where records are out the window," Morris said. "It's Iowa State and Kansas. I know those guys look at it as a big-time rivalry too. I know they'll be fired up. Hopefully, for my last go around, we can come out with a W." 

After falling to Vanderbilt last Saturday and No. 7 West Virginia on Tuesday, the Cyclones are in a precarious situation. They lack a big résumé win for the NCAA Tournament committee and will only have two games remaining this season against ranked teams — West Virginia and Baylor. 

This weekend, in order to combat some of the offensive issues that led to the two straight defeats, the Cyclones will focus on half-court offense.

Iowa State coach Steve Prohm said that lack of production is partly on him.

"Our numbers are good when we run offense," Prohm said. "I've got to get uncomfortable with these guys to where they do it. They've got to change too ... The problem is that bad shots lead to bad defense, and bad shots lead to frustration by everybody. We've got to limit that." 

Asked what he meant by making the team feel "uncomfortable," Prohm said it came down to more and more practice.

"I think it's more, 'We're going to run motion ... and we're going to run it until it looks the way I want it to look," Prohm said. "Not the way everybody else in America wants it to look. The way I want it to look. The offense that I want to see." 

While the team's shooting struggles have been primarily evident down the stretch in the past few games, guard Matt Thomas has been the outlier. He is in the midst of a three-game hot-shooting streak. 

It started against Kansas State on Jan. 24. Thomas put up seven 3-pointers (7-for-10) and was on pace to break the single-game school record of 10 after bucketing six in the first half alone. In the two games since, Thomas has shot a combined 9-for-12 from long range with 44 points. He is shooting 43.2 percent from beyond the arc, good for fourth in the Big 12. 

And he's done it all while dealing with bone spurs in his foot.

"My foot over the past week or two has been starting to feel better, so I've been able to practice most days," Thomas said. "That's part of the reason I'm feeling good." 

While Kansas' defense doesn't pop out on the stat sheet — the Jayhawks rank seventh in both 3-point and overall defense in the Big 12 — it can be a stingy one. And that's why Prohm and the rest of the team will be conscious of getting Thomas the ball. 

The Jayhawks are well on their way to a 12th Big 12 title in a row after beating No. 2 Baylor in a nail-biter Wednesday night. Morris knows Kansas point guard Frank Mason III and freshman Josh Jackson well, he said, and he has nothing but mutual respect for the program.

"I love Allen Fieldhouse, just in terms of the fan support they get," Morris said. "Win, lose or draw there, you tip your hat off there to that organization. Their staff and how they carry themselves as far as winning and tradition. I'm just happy that we get to go down there and compete in that building." 

But when game time rolls around, it will be nothing but hard-nosed competition. 

"[We're going to go with] the same mentality we had when we went to Baylor and nobody gave us a chance," Prohm said. "That's the same way I want us to feel when we get on the plane tomorrow ... I'm going to ask these guys: What's your best road win? What's it feel like? Because if you win, mark them all off the list. This one will feel better." 

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