LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) – Andrew Wiggins has finally started to live up to the hype.
The superstar freshman scored a career-high 29 points, including six straight late in the game, to lead No. 6 Kansas to a 92-81 victory over Iowa State on Wednesday night and help push the Jayhawks’ winning streak to seven straight games.
Wiggins, the nation’s No. 1 recruit, has caught fire after a slow start to his college career. He had 27 points in Saturday’s win at TCU, and matched that with an emphatic dunk that gave Kansas an 81-72 lead with just under 3 minutes remaining in the game.
The Jayhawks (16-4, 7-0 Big 12) put away the Cyclones (15-4, 3-4) from there, something they failed to do after building a 16-point first-half lead and a 13-point second-half cushion.
Perry Ellis added 20 points for Kansas, which has won five straight over the Cyclones. Joel Embiid added 14 points and 11 rebounds, while Naadir Tharpe had 12 points and 12 assists.
Georges Niang led the Cyclones with 24 points. DeAndre Kane added 22 points and Melvin Ejim, battling foul trouble much of the game, finished with 18 points and eight rebounds.
Iowa State started the season with 14 straight wins, but has now dropped four of its last five. That includes a 77-70 loss to the Jayhawks earlier this month in Ames.
The Jayhawks held on despite a shortened bench. Forward Tarik Black missed his second game with an ankle injury while guard Conner Frankamp did not suit up because of a knee injury.
It didn’t seem to matter early in the game.
The Jayhawks roared to a 30-14 lead in the opening minutes, dominating on the offensive glass and taking advantage of rapidly retreating Cyclones on the defensive boards.
Just as quickly, though, Iowa State whittled into the lead.
The comeback began with a jam off an alley-oop pass by Ejim, and picked up momentum when the Cyclones hit 3-pointers on four straight trips down court. By the time Monte Morris finished off the run, done mostly while Wiggins sat on the bench, the lead had been trimmed to 37-34.
Ellis, who had 15 first-half points, finally got Kansas back on track with an easy dunk, and Embiid made two free throws to give the Jayhawks a 46-43 halftime lead.
The Cyclones pulled even for the first time when Kane buried a 3-pointer out of halftime, but the Jayhawks responded with 11 straight points to regain control. Wiggins did most of the work, hitting a long jumper and a scooping layup while also getting to the free throw line.
By that point, a packed crowd that included Kansas City Royals Billy Butler and Jeremy Guthrie and Grammy nominated musician Trey Songz was on its feet.
Iowa State made one more charge. Ejim scored to draw within 73-69 and force Kansas coach Bill Self to call a timeout, and Niang drained a 3-pointer moments later to make it a one-point game.
Embiid responded with a thunderous dunk, and after Kane turned it over at the other end, the Cyclones intentionally fouled Wiggins on a fast break. He made both free throws, and then added a putback off Embiid’s miss to make it a four-point trip.
Wiggins added a run-out dunk after another turnover to give the Jayhawks an 81-72 lead, and the defending Big 12 champions managed to hold on from there.