KANSAS CITY, Mo. – In a matchup that was certainly a tale of two halves, the fourth-seeded Iowa State Cyclones became the lowest seed to ever win the Phillips 66 Big 12 Championship Saturday night, beating No. 7 seed Baylor 74-65 in the championship game.
“Just a gutty, gutty performance by our guys,” Iowa State head coach Fred Hoiberg said.
Cyclones forward DeAndre Kane scored a game-high 17 points and grabbed nine rebounds in the comeback win. Kane was later named MVP of the tournament.
“We played together,” Kane said. “We trust one another. We fight with each other. We’re brothers. We love playing with each other. You see it on the court, even though we get down.”
Despite coming in with a huge fanbase and the Big 12’s top-scoring offense, Iowa State struggled early on. The Cyclones missed their first 13 shot attempts and trailed 11-1 with 13 minutes remaining in the first half.
After that stretch though, Iowa State hit 24 of its last 35. The Cyclones hadn’t won the Big 12 Championship since 2000.
The Bears, on the other hand, were lights out from behind the arc early, draining four of their first seven three-pointers. They struggled toward the end though, finishing with only eight of 23 from behind the arc.
Baylor guard Brady Heslip made all three of his attempts from behind the arc in the first half. He finished with 14 points on the evening.
One of Iowa State’s biggest problems Saturday night was turnovers. The Bears capitalized off 12 Cyclone turnovers for 19 points.
After Bears forward Isaiah Austin drilled a stepback jumper with 7:43 remaining in the half, the Bears led 18-8. Austin gained the record for most blocks in a single Big 12 Championship tournament (17) in his team’s win over Texas Friday.
With 1:14 remaining in the half, Cyclones forward Georges Niang made a layup to make it a four-point game. Baylor turned the ball over and Niang hit a jumper to make it 29-27 Bears.
Niang finished with 13 points.
Baylor guard Kenny Chery scored a team-high 16 points in the loss. The Ontario native also dished out five assists.
Chery was fouled while shooting a three and hit each of his free throws to make it a 32-27 game at halftime. The Montreal native added nine points in the team’s win.
The second half was a back-and-forth affair with neither team giving an inch. Iowa State managed to cut the deficit to four before Chery hit a three-pointer to make it 47-41 Baylor.
Iowa State refused to give up though.
Big 12 Player of the Year Melvin Ejim was less than spectacular in the first half but bounced back in the second. He finished the game with 10 points on 3-of-8 shooting.
With 8:48 remaining, Kane hit an under-the-basket layup following a steal to cut the deficit to two points.
Iowa State tied the game up with about six minutes left after a three-pointer from guard Naz Long. Ejim then hit a baseline three on the following possession to give the Cyclones their first lead of the night.
From then on, it was all Cyclones basketball.
Heslip hit a deep three-pointer to give the Bears a two-point lead but Long responded with one of his own. With 3:42 remaining in the game, Iowa State led 59-58.
“We’re not going to make any excuses,” Heslip said. “I mean, we fought hard to the end. But they made some really big plays in the last three minutes and we weren’t able to match them.”
Ejim then hit his second three-pointer of the night to put the Cyclones up 62-58. That would prove to be a game-changer as Iowa State began hitting shots and took a 66-60 lead with 1:17 remaining.
While Baylor kept fighting to get back in it, Iowa State held them off in the final minute and won 74-65. The Cyclones had five players score in double digits in the win.
No team lower than a No. 3 seed had ever won the Big 12 Championship prior to Saturday night.