In a game of back-and-forth runs and rugged, physical up-and-down play, No. 4 seed Iowa State withstood every punch the Kansas Jayhawks could throw at them and pulled out a 94-83 upset of the top-seeded Jayhawks and advanced the Big 12 Tournament championship game on Saturday.
The Jayhawks, playing without the services of seven-foot freshman Joel Embiid, fell behind early in the semifinal contest, but then went on a 27-8 run of their own to take a 10-point lead with just under six minutes remaining in the first half. Sophomore forward Perry Ellis stepped up early and often for Kansas in the first 20 minutes, scoring 21 of his career-high 30 points for the game.
Iowa State then went on a 20-12 run to close out the first half trailing the Jayhawks by a basket at 48-46. Both teams shot well from the floor in the fast pace of the opening half: Kansas shooting 49 percent and the Cyclones 45 percent. DeAndre Kane, the Big 12 newcomer of the Year, led the scoring for Iowa State in the first half with 12 points, and Big 12 Player of the Year Melvin Ejim and George Niang both added 11. Ellis was the only Jayhawk in double figures at halftime.
Iowa State tied the game one minute into the second half on a layup by Dustin Hogue. That was the third tie of the game at that juncture and would end up being the last. Kane hit a three-point shot for the Cyclones two minutes into the second half, giving Iowa State a three-point lead at 51-48 that they would never again relinquish. Niang caught fire in the second 20 minutes, tallying 15 of his 27 team-high 27 points in the second stanza on 7-0f-10 shooting. Niang was forced to leave the game with just under a minute and a half left in the game and the Cyclones up by seven when he caught an inadvertent elbow in the face from the Jayhawks’ Brannen Greene.
The Cyclones began double-teaming KU’s Ellis in the second half. Wiggins, the Jayhawks’ scoring leader on the season, picked up some of the the slack with 15 second half points, but it was not enough to slow down an emotionally charged Iowa State team that was about two be denied over the final 20 minutes. The Cyclones ended up shooting a sizzling 68 percent in the second half on 17-of-25 from the field and 54 percent for the game.
Kansas coach Bill Self could not have been pleased with his team’s defensive play. Twice now in the past three games, the usually tough Kansas defense has given up more than 90 points, and that is something that hasn’t happened all season. Embiid’s absence in both games had a great deal to do with that.
Like the No. 2-seeded Oklahoma Sooners found out in the quarterfinal round of the tournament, losing to Baylor, a team OU swept in the conference season, Kansas found itself facing the same challenge against the underdog Cyclones. Friday night was Iowa State’s time, and they made certain to cash in the opportunity.
Iowa State will meet the winner of the Texas-Baylor game, the tournament’s second semifinal game, in the championship game on Saturday.