LAWRENCE — Kansas looks more than ready for what will be the premiere showdown to date in this college basketball season.
That statement certainly appears true for the No. 3-ranked Jayhawks’ star point guard, at least.
Devon Dotson scored 29 points on 11-for-14 shooting to lead KU to a 91-71 victory over Iowa State on Monday at Allen Fieldhouse, a brilliant outing on an evening with offensive highlights dotted throughout. Dotson went 6 for 8 on 3-point tries, pacing a Jayhawk group that collectively went 12 for 27 in that department.
Dotson entered a 27.1% shooter from 3 on the season.
"Devon’s a good shooter and he hasn’t made shots basically all year consistently. … Yeah, it was good to see him get the ball to go down," said KU coach Bill Self. "He had an efficient game. …
"We did some good things, but none was better than Devon tonight."
Monday’s game represented the final tune-up for KU ahead of its most important regular-season contest, an 11 a.m. Saturday clash with top-ranked Baylor in Waco, Texas. The Bears, who play at Oklahoma on Tuesday night, are undefeated in Big 12 play and hold a one-game advantage over the Jayhawks on the strength of a 67-55 victory in the teams' first meeting on Jan. 11 in Lawrence.
Ochai Agbaji (14 points), Christian Braun (13), Udoka Azubuike (13) and David McCormack (10) rounded out the double-figure scorers Monday for the Jayhawks, who shot 56.7% overall and out-scored the Cyclones 38-20 in points in the paint.
KU (23-3, 12-1 Big 12) took the 17-point underdog Cyclones’ best shot early on … and still led by 10 at halftime.
ISU, which entered the game ranked 236th nationally in 3-point shooting percentage (31.9%), started 9 of 11 from beyond the arc. Michael Jacobson’s second trey in three attempts cut the Cyclones’ deficit to three, 38-35, with 4:09 left in the first half. It also made Jacobson one of three ISU players with multiple first-half 3s (Prentiss Nixon 3 of 4, Tre Jackson 2 of 3).
"They got off to a hot start," Dotson said. "Our game plan was to run them off the line and I think they started off 9 for 11. We poorly executed on that part, but they were hot. They hit shots. You’ve got to give them credit. But there’s some things we need to clean up for sure going into our game Saturday."
KU had its own long-range response.
After an Agbaji put-back layup, Braun hit 3s on back-to-back possessions. And following a bucket from ISU’s Rasir Bolton, Dotson converted a 3 that gave KU triples on three straight trips. That make secured a 12-point Jayhawk lead, 49-37, with 2:03 left before the break.
Dotson had 15 points and Braun 13 in the first half, which saw KU outscore ISU 24-4 on points in the paint en route to a 50-40 lead.
"I think the first half we let them be comfortable. It was just a H-O-R-S-E contest," Self said. "They bothered us obviously with the middle ball screen, but we did a bad job running them off the line. In the second half they took about as many 3s but I think they were probably a little bit better contested.
"But even if you play bad defense, (your opponent) still doesn’t go 9 for 12. They really shot the ball well tonight."
ISU stayed within striking distance early on in the second period, with a Nixon steal under the basket and layup pulling the Cyclones to within 67-55 with 12:49 remaining. But an Agbaji 3 kick-started what became a decisive 13-0 run by the Jayhawks, with Dotson doing the most damage during the stretch.
The Charlotte, N.C., native converted back-to-back driving layups, the second through contact that preceded a flex and a successful free-throw try. Then, with 9:19 left, Dotson connected on his sixth 3, extending his personal scoring streak to eight points and delivering a 23-point lead.
"He looked great offensively," Braun said of Dotson. "It wasn’t our best defensive game as a team, but he looked really good hitting shots, getting in the paint and dishing the ball."
Isaiah Moss’ midrange jumper made the score 80-55 and capped the back-breaking run inflicted on the Tyrese Haliburton-less Cyclones (11-15, 4-9).
Nixon (20 points), Jacobson (13) and Bolton (12) led the way for the Cyclones, who were 2 for 11 from 3-point range in the second half and 11 for 23 from there overall.
"We go home happy tonight," Self said. "There’s been a lot of times we’ve won a game and we haven’t really left happy because of the way something happened during a game. Tonight, even though we didn’t guard and didn’t finish the game great, we’re going home knowing we’ve got a couple of days to get rested and ready for obviously the biggest game of the year."
And Dotson, who played an injury-limited 28 minutes in the first game against the Bears, appears to now be firing on all cylinders, describing himself Monday as "close to 100%."
His game certainly looked the part.
"Big game. Should be fun," Dotson said. "Road game. We know the business we’ve got to take care of. Should be a good one."