Iowa State followed up a dogfight of a semifinal against Kansas with a comeback win vs. Baylor to claim the Big 12 Tournament.
The Cyclones trailed by ten points twice in the game, but they mustered more than enough energy in the second half to seal the team’s first Big 12 Tournament championship since 2000.
Iowa State put up just 27 first half points, but the team’s shooting electrified in the latter twenty minutes. They outscored Baylor 47-32 to finish with a 74-65 victory.
Baylor’s defense restricted open looks from beyond the arc for the Cyclones in the first half, but Iowa State found ways to create more three point opportunities in the second half. Naz Long led the three point effort, nailing four of his six shots from deep. The Melvin Ejim hit two threes late in the second half to help the Cyclones pull away. Those two threes constituted most of his offensive production, as foul trouble limited his time on the court. He finished with ten points and nine rebounds.
DeAndre Kane led Iowa State with 17 points, shooting a perfect eight for eight from the free throw line. He also pulled down seven rebounds and seven dishes. Dustin Hogue was the unsung hero, seemingly doing it all. The junior forward finished the championship game with 12 points, seven boards (four of them offensive), and shooting 80 percent from the line.
Fred Hoiberg’s squad ended the night shooting 50 percent from the floor, 53 percent from deep, and 75 percent from the line. The Cyclones out-rebounded the Bears 38-28 but did commit four more turnovers than their opponent.
The comeback victory was yet another testament to the Cyclones’ ability to rise and overcome adversity. They haven’t been strangers to double-digit deficits all year, and their relentless will is quite impressive. And with the emergence of Naz Long from the bench, this Iowa State team looks to have all the pieces together for a Final Four run.
The only thing that could derail that possibility is foul trouble, specifically regarding Ejim, Niang, and Kane.
Melvin Ejim had to sit a good slug of the second half because of his three fouls, but Long and Hogue stepped up to support the offense. Iowa State is most dangerous, though, when its big three are all on the floor for as long as possible. All three are consistent double digit scorers game in and game out, and when you add in guys like Long, Hogue, and even Matt Thomas, the Cyclones are incredibly potent.
This Big 12 Tournament run for Iowa State could be a preview of things to come in the NCAA Tournament. Iowa State played with a lot of heart over the past few days, and all their players are coming together to win in any way they can. Fred Hoiberg has an extremely talented squad on his hands, and they just slugged their way through the tough Big 12 to claim the tournament title.
I wouldn’t be surprised if Iowa State manages to carry this momentum all the way to the Final Four.
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