By RICK SOLEM
The last time the Iowa State University men’s basketball took on Kansas, Onalaska, Wis., native Matt Thomas didn’t start for the first time this season.
The 6-foot-3 guard played just 16 minutes in the 77-70 loss – just the second loss of the season at the time for the Cyclones (15-3, 3-3 Big 12). He was 1-for-5 from the field and 1-for-4 from beyond the arc with two rebounds an assist and three blocks.
It’s hard to say how much Thomas will play tonight – or whether he’ll start, because he hasn’t the last three games – on the road against Big 12 leading Kansas (15-4, 6-0) at 8 p.m. on ESPNU. The Jayhawks are ranked 6th in the AP and 7th in USA Today polls, while Iowa State is 16th and 18th, respectively.
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During the Cyclones’ three-game losing streak, Thomas 1-for-11 from beyond the arc.
Then Kansas State (15-6, 5-3) came to town. Again, Thomas didn’t start, but he regained his confidence and scored 14 points on 5-of-7 shooting, including 4-for-6 from beyond the arc in an 81-75 win.
“Obviously, you can say when the first one goes down, that’s a pretty good feeling,” Thomas said. “You just continue to shoot with confidence.”
Thomas was 4-for-4 in scoring 12 points in the first half and finished tying career highs in points and 3-pointers. It was his sixth game in double figures.
Watch his post-game press conference here.
The last time Iowa State faced Kansas - just over two weeks ago - the game was tied at halftime before ISU went ice cold from the field (24-percent shooting in the second half). Meanwhile, Joel Embiid scored 12 of his 16 points in the second to lift the Jayhawks. Kansas’ other rookie phenom, Andrew Wiggins, had 17 points, 19 rebounds in the contest.
In Iowa State’s three losses, Thomas has played sparingly. The freshman started, but played just 12 minutes in an 87-82 loss to Oklahoma. He played just 11 minutes off the bench in the 86-76 loss to Texas.
Thomas is averaging 6.7 points, 2.6 rebounds, 1.2 assists and has just six turnovers in 18 games. He’s shooting 40-for-107 from the field (37%) and 27-for-79 from beyond the arc (34%).
KOENIG’S MINUTES INCREASING FOR BADGERS OF LATE
The last time the University of Wisconsin men’s basketball team took on Northwestern, things got a little out of hand.
The Badgers (17-3, 4-3 Big Ten), ranked fourth at the time, were up 40-14 at halftime – shooting 59 percent – and won 76-49. It was part of a four-game skid by the Wildcats (10-11, 3-5), who have since recovered, while Wisconsin has dropped considerably.
Wisconsin will host Northwestern at 8 p.m. tonight at the Kohl Center on Big Ten Network. The Badgers are now ranked No. 14 in the AP and 13th in USA Today after losing three of the last four.
La Crosse, Wis., native and freshman Bronson Koenig has seen his minutes fluctuate this season, but played a combined 40 the past two games.
Koenig played the most minutes of anyone off the bench in the win over the Boilermakers, where he was 1-for-2, scoring three points, with a rebound, steal, assist block and no turnovers. Against Minnesota, he was 1-for-4 from beyond the arc and added two assists and a rebound along with no turnovers.
Badgers fans may have been on suicide watch after dropping those three in a row to Indiana, Michigan and Minnesota. It would have been OK, having dropped two, but nobody in Wisconsin likes to lose a game to the Golden Gophers, especially by more than 10 (81-68).
Wisconsin bounced back with a convincing win over Purdue (13-7, 3-4) with a balanced attack – all five starters were in double figures – and should do the same again over an improved Northwestern.
Nigel Hayes scored 19 off the bench to lead Wisconsin in that one, going 8-for-12 from the field. Koenig played 21 minutes in the blowout on Jan. 1, going 1-for-3 with 4 points, an assist and a turnover.
The Wildcats have gone 3-2 since the four-game losing streak, with wins over No. 23 Illinois (49-43), Indiana (54-47) and Purdue (63-60). The lost 76-50 to Iowa on Saturday – a team Wisconsin beat 75-71 on Jan. 5.
Koenig is averaging 3.4 points, 1.5 rebounds, 1.2 assists and has just nine turnovers in 19 games. He’s shooting 26-for-58 from the field (45%) and 10-for-31 from beyond the arc (32%).