The old adage that says it is hard to beat a team three times in a season held true Friday night, as the No. 16 Iowa State Cyclones upset ninth-ranked Kansas 94-83 in the semi-finals of the Big 12 Conference basketball tournament in Kansas City. The scope of the win for the Cyclones is magnified by the fact that, up until Friday night’s game, the Jayhawks were 23-4 all-time at the Sprint Center in Kansas City.
It was the fourth straight game for the Jayhawks without their high-scoring center Joel Embiid because of an injury and Iowa State took advantage of his absence, especially in the second half. The Cyclones hit on eight of 12 three-pointers in the first half, but still hit the midway point trailing 48-46. In the second half though, they pounded the ball inside, opening up with a 20-9 run to lead 66-57. Kansas got no closer than six points for the rest of the night.
The close-in baskets led to a 54 percent field goal percentage for Iowa State. In the Cyclones’ two losses during the regular season to the Jayhawks, they averaged just 39 percent. Kansas also held an advantage on the boards during the regular season of 27. They still had a rebounding advantage on Friday night, but it was much closer at 35-31. The 94 points was the most given up by Kansas all year.
After suffering the upset at the hands of Iowa State in the Big 12 Conference tournament, Kansas now ends their regular season at 24-9. The defeat will probably mean the Jayhawks will have to settle for a number-two seed in the NCAA tournament. Perry Ellis led Kansas with 30 and Andrew Wiggins had 22. Iowa State got double-figure scoring from each of their starting five, led by forward Georges Niang with 25, and DeAndre Kang, who had 20. The victory was the first ever for the Cyclones against Kansas in the Big 12 tournament. They are now 25-8 for the year, matching the 2001 Iowa State team for the second-most wins in a season. The Cyclones have a bit of work to do get to the top of that list. Their 2000 team won 32.
In the other semi-final in the Big 12 conference, Baylor had no problem dispatching Texas 86-69. Baylor led 42-27 at halftime and never looked back. Brady Heslip hit 6 three-pointers and led the Bears with 24 points, while Cory Jefferson had 20.
So now with the upset of Kansas behind them, Iowa State moves on to face perhaps the hottest team in the Big 12 Conference tournament in Baylor, who has won 10 of their last 11 games. The 24-10 Bears are the seventh seed in the tournament, and have had to win three games in three days to advance to Saturday night’s final. The boys from Waco, Texas, are the lowest seed to make it to the finals since their predecessors from Baylor made it as a ninth seed in 2009. There is another streak, however, that favors the Cyclones. In the 17-year history of the Big 12 basketball tournament, there has never been a champion from the state of Texas.
Commentary by Chuck Podhaisky