There were no real surprises in quarterfinal action Thursday in the Big 12 Men’s Basketball Tournament. All of the expected teams advanced to Friday night’s semifinal round. Iowa State was the only lower seed to move on after Thursday, but you could hardly term the Cyclones’ late-game comeback win over four-seed Oklahoma an upset as evenly matched as these two teams are.
Oklahoma was in control of the game with a 12-point lead at the 7:42 mark iu the second halfin its quarterfinal game with Iowa State, but failed to score a field goal for the remainder of the game. The Cyclones ramped up their pressure and kept chipping away, taking the lead for the first time in the game, 63-62, with about three minutes left in the game and never looked back.
That sets up a terrific semifinal matchup with top-seed Kansas for the Cyclones, who lost twice to the Jayhawks, on both occasions in overtime, in games they easily could have and should have won. The Cyclones and Jayhawks will square off in the first semifinal contest Friday night at the Sprint Center in Kansas City, Mo. That game will be followed by a rematch between two-seed Kansas State and three-seed Oklahoma State of a barnburner game played last Saturday in Stillwater, won late by the Cowboys.
The Wildcats punched their ticket to the tournament semifinals with a commanding, workman-like 66-49 conquest of Texas for Kansas State third win over the Longhorns this season. Senior guard Rodney McGruder paced the Cats, as he has all season, with what seemed like a very quiet 24 points. Coach Bruce Weber’s conference co-champions also got a huge contribution from freshman forward D.J. Johnson, who scored a career-high eight points and grabbed seven rebounds.
K-State held the Longhorns’ two big scorers, Myck Kabongo and Sheldon McLellan, to a grand total of seven points. Kabongo failed to score a field goal for the first game since his eligibility was reinstated a month ago. As they have all season, the Wildcats capitalized on 15 Texas turnovers and turned those miscues into 24 points.
After the game, Texas coach Rick Barnes paid the Wildcats a high compliment, remarking in the postgame press briefing, “Kansas State is really good. I mean really, really good.”
The final game of the day had the makings in the first half of a total blowout, as Oklahoma State ran up an 18-point halftime lead over Baylor and held the Bears to 25 percent shooting and zero for 13 from three-point range. There is no other way to describe Baylor’s first-half performance than absolutely awful.
But like in the Oklahoma-Iowa State game, the second half was a completely different story. Baylor’s Pierre Jackson, the Big 12′s leading scorer, was two for 11 shooting in the first 20 minutes and had missed on seven three-point attempts. Travis Ford, the Oklahoma State head coach, knew coming into the game that the Cowboys had to stop Jackson if they were to prevail over the Bears.
Baylor managed to fight its way all the way back in the game, as Jackson found the range repeatedly in the closing stages of the game, drawing to within a single point with under a minute to go. The second 20 minutes was a complete role reversal, with Jackson and his teammates scorching the net at a 50 percent clip and five for 10 on shots beyond the arc, while Oklahoma State struggled to get field goals. The Cowboys’ Le”Bryan Nash getting all six of Oklahoma State’s field goals in the second half.
In the end, though, the Bears had just dug themselves too deep a hole, and Oklahoma State held on for a two-point 74-72 victory as Jackson’s 25-footer hit the back iron and bounded off, effectively ending any hope Baylor had of receiving an NCAA Tournament bid. The gritty Baylor comeback turned what appeared at first to be a total mismatch into what easily was the most exciting game of the quarterfinal round.
If the two local teams, Kansas and Kansas State, survive their semifinal games and advance to the championship on Saturday, you can bet that the Sprint Center will be rocking. Kansas State would like nothing more than another crack at the Sunflower State rival (Kansas swept the two regular-season games) and a chance to get a high seed in the NCAA Championship.
Other news and notes from Thursday’s action in the 2013 Big 12 Tournament
- Kansas State’s win over Texas was the Wildcats’ 26th of the season and the second most in program history. The 2009-10 K-State team, featuring Al-Big 12 performer Jacob Pullen, finished with 29 wins.
- Rodney McGruder’s 24 points in K-State’s win over Texas put him over 1,500 points for his career, the eighth Wildcat player to do so.
- Oklahoma State is 4-0 as a No. 3 seed in the Big 12 Tournament.
- Kansas State and Oklahoma State split two games during the regular season. Both teams won at home. K-State won 73-67 in Manhattan, and the Cowboys came out on top last Saturday in Stillwater, 76-70.
- Kansas shot a sizzling 66 percent in its quarterfinal win over Texas Tech, breaking the previous mark of 63 percent set by Baylor in 2007.
- Iowa State senior starting point guard Korie Lucious had nine assists but no points and was benched in the second half for the final seven minutes of the game with Oklahoma.
- Oklahoma State shooting guard Phil Forte made all six of his free-throw attempts against Baylor and has now made 27 consecutive free throws dating back to Feb. 6.
- Baylor seven-foot freshman Isaiah Austin did not score a field goal against Baylor. That is the first time in 30 games this season that Austin has been held without a field goal.
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