KANSAS CITY, Mo. — DeAndre Kane scored 17 points, Georges Niang added 13 and No. 16 Iowa State rallied to beat Baylor 74-65 on Saturday night to win its first Big 12 tournament title since 2000.
Naz Long and Dustin Hogue had 12 points apiece, and Big 12 player of the year Melvin Ejim finished with 10 points and nine rebounds for the fourth-seeded Cyclones (26-7), who knocked off top-seeded Kansas in the semifinals before ending the Bears’ tremendous tournament run.
Making only their second title game appearance, the Cyclones were buoyed by a group of supporters dressed in red and yellow and eager to see whether coach Fred Hoiberg — who has already restored Hilton Magic — could start bringing home trophies, too.
When the final buzzer sounded inside the Sprint Center, Hoiberg rounded the court with his finger raised — No. 1, as in the top of the Big 12, for only the second time in school history.
Kenny Chery had 16 points for the seventh-seeded Bears (24-11), who have never won a postseason conference tournament. They’ve lost all three tries since the formation of the Big 12.
Brady Heslip finished with 14 points, and Isaiah Austin and Royce O’Neale each had 10 for the Bears, who were trying to become the first champion to win four games in four days.
Instead, they ran out of steam when they needed it the most.
Still, the Bears have won nine of their last 11 games, moving from a precarious position on the NCAA tournament bubble to firmly into the field to be announced on Sunday night.
For most of Saturday night’s game, it appeared as if they’d be an automatic qualifier.
The rim seemed like a hula-hoop to the Cyclones in a semifinal victory over No. 10 Kansas, when they shot 54 percent from the field. But it turned into a thimble in the first half against Baylor, the Cyclones missing their first 13 shots against the Bears’ 2-3 zone defense.
Baylor was especially effective against the Cyclones’ big three of Ejim, Niang and Kane, who had carried them to the finals. They combined to miss their first 10 shots.
Still, the Cyclones never allowed their deficit to grow to more than 10 points, and two big baskets by Niang in the closing minutes drew Iowa State within 32-27 at the break.
Baylor, which had led for all but 97 seconds in its first three games, maintained control throughout much of the second half. The Cyclones kept making charges that threatened to tie the game, but it seemed that every time Chery or someone else was there to answer the bell.
Iowa State finally caught up when Long hit his third 3-pointer, and Ejim answered a chant of “Let’s Go Cyclones” from the sea of red with another 3 that gave them a 53-50 lead with 5:45 to go.
The game turned into a tug-of-war down the stretch, the Cyclones taking the lead, the Bears grabbing it right back.
It turned into a fitting final few minutes for a conference season that was among the most brutal in league history, and a tournament that was just as competitive.
Iowa State eventually persevered, once again relying on its stars.
Ejim drained a 3-pointer to give the Cyclones a 62-58 lead with 2:45 to go, and after Heslip made two free throws for Baylor, Hogue converted a nifty reverse layup to restore the lead.
Niang’s two free throws with just over 2 minutes left gave Iowa State a 66-60 lead, and then he sealed the game with his driving layup with 36 seconds left, starting a party among Iowa State fans that had been more than a decade in the making.
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