As if we needed any reminders, Iowa State beat Kansas in the Big 12 tournament final 70-66 after a huge second half to stress the fact that under Fred Hoiberg, this program is going places it hasn’t been to in a very long time.
The Cyclones win the tournament for a second straight year, this time coming back from a 14-point halftime deficit, outscoring Kansas 47-29 in the second half while beating them 30-4 in paint points during that timeframe. Iowa State scored 46 points in the paint, the most a Kansas team has yielded over the last four seasons, and the third time Iowa State have scored 40 points or more in the paint against Kansas in 2015, splitting the regular season series 1-1.
Kansas suddenly crumbled under the pressure of the Iowa State defense, resulting in 15 unanswered points for the Cyclones off of turnovers in the second half. For the fifth consecutive game, Iowa State come out victorious despite trailing by at least 10 points at one time or another. They fell behind as much as 17 points in the win over Kansas, who have now lost just for a second time in the conference championship game out of 11 finals they’ve played in.
This time without any free throws to mess up, it was non other than Georges Niang, scoring 19 points, that led Iowa State in their impressive comeback. He was helped by Abdel Nader with 13 points off the bench and 11 points each from Jameel McKay and Monte Morris. Wayne Selden Jr. led Kansas with 25 points, and the only other player to score in double figures was Frank Mason III with 13 points.
After Iowa State took a 65-63 lead with 48 seconds to go, Kansas did everything wrong in the attempts to salvage the game. Devonte Graham turned a wild drive to the basket into a turnover which led to Monte Morris hitting a shot from the line. Kansas could have gone for a 3-point attempt, but attacked the rim and Mason missed a layup. Iowa State grabbed the rebound and began celebrating in what has been an improbable week of events and wins.
An interesting tidbit about what comes next for Iowa State might be glimpsed through the fate of teams that have faced them in the NCAA Tournament in 2000 and 2014, the two years they’ve won the conference tournament in. Both Michigan State and UConn beat Iowa State in the NCAA tournament in these years. Both programs went on to win the national title, so some might say it’s either Iowa State or the team that beats them that gets to win the national championship.