Last place, eh?
Well get this, Iowa State preseason naysayers:
The team some people picked to finish anywhere from fourth place to 10th is one victory from its second Big 12 Conference tournament title.
The 16th-ranked Cyclones’ 94-83 upset of 10th-ranked Kansas Friday in a semifinal at the Sprint Center was so aggressive that Georges Niang left the game with 1:23 remaining, blood dripping from his right eye after taking a charge under the basket.
It was that kind of game. Rough and tumble, tipoff to final horn.
“Everyone says they have more potential, more NBA draft players,” Melvin Ejim said of the Jayhawks. “We won.”
Niang’s blood was cleaned up, and five stitches later the victory added more affirmation to experts who say coach Fred Hoiberg’s team can go a ways in the NCAA Tournament. But first things first.
Iowa State enters today’s 8 p.m. game against Baylor with a 25-7 record after overcoming its Achilles heel, thanks to a lot of players.
Niang led the Cyclones with 25 points, including 14 to help them outscore Kansas 48-35 in the second half. DeAndre Kane had 20 points, six assists and six rebounds – and afterwards gave the program big kudos.
“This program deserves it,” he said about beating a team against whom Iowa State – and others – often lose.
Friday’s game was physical from the start, players repeatedly throwing one another to the floor. There was elbowing, but out of view of the three officials. Players entered free throw lanes at their own risk.
“Certainly they deserved to beat us – and we deserved exactly what we got,” Kansas coach Bill Self said.
The game included Hoiberg’s second technical foul of his coaching career. He was so mad in the first half that he had to be restrained. His other technical was against Kentucky two years ago in the NCAA Tournament.
“He doesn’t get many technicals,” Naz Long said. “He was itching to almost get another one. When you see coach do that, you have no choice but to get your emotions up. He’s willing to sacrifice getting damn near kicked out of the Sprint Center for us. It meant a lot.”
There wasn’t a reason for further Hoiberg agitation — the Cyclones controlled the rest of the game, thanks mostly to their 57.9 percent shooting in the second half.
“Getting the right guy the ball on the right spots on the floor,” was what Hoiberg credited for the win.
That and Niang, who scored on four second-half possessions in a row, helping Iowa State to a double-digit lead in the final 6 minutes.
“He closed the game – from hook shots, to jumpers, to middle floaters,” Long said.
He also had a hand in second-half defense against Perry Ellis, who led Kansas (24-9) with 30 points, but just nine in the final 20 minutes.
“We made it tougher for him to get the ball where he likes to shoot it,” Dustin Hogue said.
Last place, eh?