Kansas fans will surely greet Iowa State guard Caleb Grill in a vocal manner when the No. 2 Jayhawks face the No. 14 Cyclones in a Big 12 showdown on Saturday in Lawrence, Kan.
Grill, a native of Wichita, Kan., is highly ambivalent about the Jayhawks, very unlike many Kansans who begin chanting “Rock Chalk, Jayhawk” at an early age.
“Growing up in the state of Kansas, I’ve never been a fan of Kansas,” the 22-year-old Grill said Thursday. “I grew up in Wichita and my dad (Chris) played at Wichita State. Personally, we’ve never been the biggest KU fans.”
So expect some “Cool down the Grill” signs to be on display inside Phog Allen Fieldhouse when Iowa State (13-2, 4-0 Big 12) looks to upset the Jayhawks (15-1, 4-0).
The two squads are part of a three-way tie for first in the Big 12 with Kansas State. For the Cyclones, it is their first 4-0 start in Big 12 play since the 1999-2000 campaign.
Kansas is 4-0 for the ninth time in coach Bill Self’s 20-season tenure at the school. The Jayhawks also bring a nine-game winning streak into the matchup while Iowa State has won its past six.
Kansas escaped earlier this week at home when it edged Oklahoma 79-75 on Tuesday.
The Jayhawks trailed by 10 points with 5:19 remaining before closing the game with an 18-4 burst to improve to 9-0 at home.
“We’re so happy that we won, but that’s about as poor as we’ve played in a long time,” Self said.
KJ Adams Jr. scored a career-best 22 points for Kansas and Jalen Wilson added 17 but was just 3 of 12 from the field.
It was the Jayhawks’ third Big 12 win by four or fewer points this season — they recorded a 69-67 home win over Oklahoma State on Dec. 31 and a 75-72 road victory over Texas Tech on Jan. 3.
“We’ve been battle-tested so much this year, especially with close games, we always find a way to stay composed,” Wilson said. “We just continued to play our ball. There’s no 10-point play, so there’s no point in rushing the shots.
“There wasn’t a time when I thought the game was over, because I know we’re always going to find a way to win.”
Wilson leads the Jayhawks in scoring (20.0 points per game) and rebounding (8.8) but has shot below 40 percent in three consecutive games and seven of the past 12.
Second-leading scorer Gradey Dick (14.3) was just 1 of 8 from the field against the Sooners while scoring eight points. He has scored 11 or fewer points in four of the past five games.
Iowa State is coming off Tuesday’s impressive 84-50 home rout of Texas Tech.
Gabe Kalscheur (five) and Grill (four) combined for nine of the Cyclones’ season-high 12 3-pointers. Kalscheur led Iowa State with a season-high 25 points to top 20 for the third time this season.
Jaren Holmes scored 15 points and Grill had 14.
“Our guys were really dialed in,” Cyclones coach T.J. Otzelberger said. “Their focus and their preparation was good. We were able to take it one step at a time and carry that over into the game and do it for the full 40 minutes.
“Regardless of who we put in there, they were ready for the job.”
Holmes averages a team-best 13.1 points, followed by Kalscheur (11.8) and Grill (11.1).
Kansas has won the past six meetings.
–Field Level Media