9:00 PM ET, March 15, 2014
Sprint Center, Kansas City, Missouri
It said: "I just want to win."
Kane did everything in his power to deliver on Saturday night, scoring 17 points to jump-start a struggling offense. Niang had 13 points, and together they helped the No. 16 Cyclones rally for a 74-65 victory over Baylor and their first Big 12 tournament title since 2000.
"We play with each other. We fight with each other. We're brothers on the court," said Kane, who was dismissed from Marshall for unspecified reasons, but has made the most of his second chance with the Cyclones.
"Even when we get down," he tournament's most valuable player said, "we trust one another. We keep fighting and we find a way."
The Cyclones were buoyed by a group of supporters dressed in red, eager to see whether coach Fred Hoiberg -- who has already restored Hilton Magic -- could start bringing home trophies, too.
When the final buzzer sounded inside Sprint Center, Hoiberg rounded the court with his finger raised -- No. 1, as in the top of the Big 12, for only the second time in school history.
"The fist pump was such an emotional feeling for me," said Hoiberg, who dedicated the win to his beloved mentor, Johnny Orr, the former Cyclones coach who died in December.
"This one is for him," Hoiberg said. "The fist pump was in honor of Coach, and also to thank the fans as well. I just wanted them to know how much we appreciated what they brought."
Naz Long and Dustin Hogue had 12 points apiece, and Big 12 player of the year Melvin Ejim finished with 10 points and nine rebounds for the fourth-seeded Cyclones (26-7), who knocked off top-seeded Kansas in the semifinals before ending the Bears' tremendous tournament run.
Kenny Chery had 16 points for the seventh-seeded Bears (24-11), who have never won a postseason conference tournament. They've lost all three tries since the formation of the Big 12.
Instead, they ran out of steam when they needed it the most.
"We weren't tired," Heslip insisted. "They just made some really tough plays."
State of Progression
Iowa State started slowly against Baylor in Saturday night's Big 12 final. But it's the way the Cyclones finished that earned them a ticket to the Big Dance. Here's a look:
|1st 7:34||Rest of Game|
|-- ESPN Stats & Information|
Still, the Bears have won nine of their last 11 games, moving from a precarious position on the NCAA tournament bubble to firmly into the field to be announced on Sunday night.
"We don't have time to look back on this game at all," Baylor coach Scott Drew said. "We need to focus, get better and get ready for the NCAA tournament. The worst thing we could do is dwell on this game and let that affect us in the NCAA tournament."
For most of Saturday night's game, it appeared as if they'd be an automatic qualifier.
The rim seemed like a hula-hoop to the Cyclones in a semifinal victory over No. 10 Kansas, when they shot 54 percent from the field. But it turned into a thimble in the first half against Baylor, the Cyclones missing their first 13 shots against the Bears' 2/3 zone defense.
Baylor was especially effective against the Cyclones' big three of Ejim, Niang and Kane, who had carried them to the finals. They combined to miss their first 10 shots.
"It wasn't looking real promising there," Hoiberg said.
Still, the Cyclones never allowed their deficit to grow to more than 10 points, and two big baskets by Niang in the closing minutes drew Iowa State within 32-27 at the break.
Baylor, which had led for all but 97 seconds in its first three games, maintained control throughout much of the second half, but Iowa State finally pulled ahead when Ejim answered a chant of "Let's Go Cyclones" from the sea of red with a 3 that gave them a 53-50 lead with 5:45 to go.
Iowa State G DeAndre Kane discusses preparing to face North Carolina Central, winning the Big 12 tournament, the momentum the Cyclones can take from the tournament and more.
The game turned into a tug-of-war down the stretch, the Cyclones taking the lead, the Bears grabbing it right back. Iowa State eventually persevered, once again relying on its stars.
Ejim drained a 3-pointer to give the Cyclones a 62-58 lead with 2:45 to go, and after Heslip made two free throws for Baylor, Hogue converted a nifty reverse layup to restore the lead.
Niang's two free throws with just over 2 minutes left gave Iowa State a 66-60 lead, and then he sealed the game with his driving layup with 36 seconds left, starting a party among Iowa State fans that had been more than a decade in the making.
"We didn't lose our composure," Hoiberg said. "Just a gutty, gutty performance by our guys."
Big 12 Tournament
KANSAS CITY, MO - MARCH 15: Naz Long #15 of the Iowa State Cyclones celebrates with DeAndre Kane #50 after the...(Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images)
Team Stat Comparison
|FG Made-Attempted||23-57 (.404)||24-48 (.500)|
|3P Made-Attempted||8-23 (.348)||8-15 (.533)|
|FT Made-Attempted||11-16 (.688)||18-24 (.750)|
|Fouls (Tech/Flagrant)||18 (0/0)||14 (0/0)|
Next 5 Games
Big 12 Conference Standings
In the second half, Iowa State attempted 78% of its shots in the paint, including its first 12 shots. The Cyclones outscored Baylor 22-12 in the paint in the second half. Iowa State's determination to get into the paint against the zone in the second half created open looks on the perimeter. After attempting their first 12 second-half shots in the paint, the Cyclones made all five of their attempts from outside the paint.[+]
Iowa State in the Paint - Saturday
In the second half, Iowa State shot 63.2% against Baylor's zone defense. The Cyclones shot 31.8% against the zone in the first half, missing their first 11 shots.[+]
Iowa State vs Zone Defense - Saturday
After missing their first 13 FGA in the game's first 7:34, Iowa State missed just 11 shots from the field the rest of the way - shooting 24-35 (68.6%).
Iowa State missed its first 11 shots against Baylor's zone defense, but has made seven of its last 11 against the zone.[+]
Iowa State vs Zone Defense - First Half
In the first half, Iowa State had a higher field goal percentage outside the paint than in the paint.[+]
Iowa State Offense - First Half
ESPN Stats & Information