You had to be strong and determined – both physically and emotionally – to survive this year’s Big 12 Championship. When the dust finally settled on Saturday night, it was Iowa State that was the final team standing and the tournament champions for the second time in the Big 12 era. The Cyclones outlasted Baylor in one heck of a title game, 74-65 with more than 19,000, mostly Iowa State fans, looking on at the Sprint Center in Kansas City, Mo.
The Cyclones got off to a terrible start, falling behind 11-1 and not scoring their first field goal until Naz Long drained a three-point shot with almost seven and a half minutes gone in the opening half. Iowa State never had the lead in the game until there was just over six minutes remaining in the game.
The contest was tied at 50-all when – who else? – the Big 12 Player of the Year, Melvin Ejim, nailed a straight-on 20-foot shot to put the Cyclones ahead for the first time in the game, 53-50. The No. 7-seeded Bears would tie the game one more time at 53 a piece, before fourth-seeded State slowly stretched out the lead and won it with free throws in the closing seconds.
Baylor was playing its fourth game in as many days, but early on, the Bears seemed to be hardly affected by the three previous days of action. In fact, the Bears showed amazing energy and intensity for a team that had played and beaten TCU in the opening round on Wednesday followed by convincing wins over No. 2 seed Oklahoma and third-seeded Texas in successive nights.
By now most everyone either watched the championship game on TV or has heard 0r read about the results. Here are a dozen story lines from the 18th Big 12 Men’s Basketball Tournament championship tilt that you may not be aware of:
- Baylor’s 7-1 center Isaiah Austin had his typical double-digit scoring performance against Iowa State, recording 10 points. He also had seven rebounds, but had only one blocked shot in the conference championship game. That compares with 17 total blocks in his three previous tourney games.
- Baylor senior shooting guard Brady Heslip made four-of-six three-point baskets in the championship final, giving him 14 in this year’s tournament, the second most in a Big 12 Tournament.
- Iowa State set a new record for three-point shots made by a team in a three-game Big 12 Tournament. The Cyclones made 31 of 63 three-pointers (492) in this year’s tournament (seven of those came from Naz Long; DeAndre Kane mad six three-pointers over the three days of this year’s tournament).
- No team from the state of Texas has ever won a Big 12 Tournament championship. This was Iowa State’s second tournament title. Kansas has 12 tournament crowns, Oklahoma has won it three times and Missouri won it in 2012, its last season in the Big 12 before moving to the SEC.
- Iowa State missed it first 13 shots in its tournament championship game with Baylor. The Cyclones ended the first half hitting just 8-of-25 shots for 32 percent. The second half, though, was a completely different story, however, as Iowa State shot 16 of 23 from the field for a red-hot 70 percent.
- Neither of Kansas City’s hometown favorites, Kansas or Kansas State, made it to the championship game on Saturday. That didn’t seem to matter, though, because the attendance for the title game drew 19, 108, the fifth highest for a single session in Big 12 Tournament history.
- Baylor was the taller and longer team in its championship battle with Iowa State, with 7-1 Isaiah Austin and 6-9 Cory Jefferson’s presence clearly an obstruction in the paint. Despite this, however, Iowa State outscored Baylor in the paint 30 to 20.
- The score in the championship game was tied twice (both times in the second half) and the lead changed hands five teams. The largest lead was 10 points: Baylor, 11-1, at the 13-minute mark in the first half; Iowa State, 72-62, with 10 seconds remaining in the game.
- Iowa State’s record in Big 12 Tournament games is now 10-16 and 2-0 in championship final. Baylor is 14-18 in all Big 12 Tournament games and is 0-3 in the title game.
- A good portion of the Iowa State fans in attendance at this year’s championship final wore a bandage over their right eye in tribute to Georges Niang, the Iowa State player who was struck in the face late in the semifinal game with Kansas and had to leave the game to get stitches to repair a deep laceration above his eye. Niang had his difficulties inside against the Baylor bigs, shooting just 5 out of 15 for 13 points in Saturday’s final.
- Iowa State placed three players on the All-Big 12 Tournament Team: DeAndre Kane, Melvin Ejim and George Niang. Kansas freshman sensation Andrew Wiggins and Baylor’s Isaiah Austin also made the All-Tournament Team.
- The loss to Iowa State was only Baylor second in its last 12 games. The Bears were 2-8 at one point in the conference season. but went on a late season streak, winning seven of their final eight league games to finish the season at 9-9. The Bears are now 10-2 and will be one of seven Big 12 teams headed to the NCAA Tournament.