All season long Iowa State and Kansas were the best teams in the Big 12, also finishing 1-2 in the conference. It makes sense to see them in the final of the conference tournament following a Jayhawks 62-52 win over Baylor while the Cyclones barely got by against Oklahoma, winning 67-65 thanks to Ryan Spangler missing a wide open layup in the last second.
Kansas, the eternal regular season champions in the Big 12, got going early against Baylor, if 26 first half points can be called ‘getting going’. However, their defense held the Bears to just 18 points, despite the absence of Cliff Alexander and Perry Ellis playing with an injured knee. They did an excellent job against Baylor in the post, limiting them to just two field goals on 17 touches, along with forcing three turnovers.
Offensively, Kansas went to the baseline almost every time, playing a much slower and efficient style of basketball against the 1-3-1 zone Baylor use, which was very different compared to their 64-59 win over TCU. Kansas got 18 points out of only 24 touches when attacking the baseline, hitting 6-of-9 from the field, and getting to the line easily enough from there. Kansas had 11 more free throw shots compared to Baylor and scoring 7 more points from the line.
Wayne Selden Jr. led Kansas with 20 points. This will be the 11th time since the conference tournament began in 1997 that Kansas will be a part of the championship game. They’ve won nine of their 10 finals, most recently in 2013 when they beat Kansas State 70-54.
For Iowa State, it’ll be their second consecutive championship game in the conference tournament, winning it all last season with a win over Baylor. It was the first championship game for the Cyclones since 2000, an encounter with Oklahoma they also won.
So how did the Cyclones get by the Sooners 15 years later? They managed to come back from 15 points down realizing that running the floor on a less than special shooting day wasn’t going to help them out. Instead, they turned to half court offense, scoring 63 of their points on half court offense. They shot just 25% from the field on transition offense, scoring almost 16 points below their average in transition.
It was bad shooting game for Buddy Hield and Jordan Woodward, but Oklahoma blew opportunities they should have exploited in the final seconds of the game. From a missed 3-pointer and setteling for just two points when trailing by three, blowing an 11-point lead and the most tragic of their mistakes, Spangler not taking advantage of Iowa State breaking down on defense and leaving him wide open, missing an easy layup with a second left on the clock, taking away the chance to play for the title from the Sooners who haven’t been there since 2003.