In like lions
KANSAS CITY, Mo. – Iowa State coach Fred Hoiberg wanted to see an up-and-down game against plodding Kansas State, one where the scoreboard would spin like a slot machine as points piled up.
He certainly didn’t want to see the Wildcats with 85 points by the end of it.
“They do such a good job of slowing you down,” Hoiberg said. “If you would have told me they were going to score 85, I would have told you that we were going to have trouble winning the game.”
He was right in one respect: The Cyclones did have trouble. But behind another big game from Melvin Ejim, the Big 12’s player of the year, and plenty of help from his supporting cast, the No. 16 Cyclones held on for a 91-85 victory in the Big 12 tournament quarterfinals.
“They match up really well with us,” said Ejim, who had 24 points and 10 rebounds. “That’s why it’s always so close. They’re a great team and they always play good defense.”
Well, except when they’re facing the Cyclones. Iowa State advanced to Friday night’s Big 12 semifinal against No. 10 Kansas, which beat Oklahoma State 77-70 in overtime.
No. 4 seed Iowa State (24-7) was clinging to an 87-85 lead with just over a minute left when Ejim missed a layup and the No. 5 seed Wildcats (20-12) got the rebound. They raced the other way, but Shane Southwell lost control going toward the rim and Iowa State came away with it.
Long was fouled and made both free throws with 16.2 seconds left. Marcus Foster missed a 3 at the other end, and Long scored a layup in transition to put an exclamation mark on the win.
Dustin Hogue finished with 19 points and 10 rebounds, Georges Niang added 18 points and Naz Long had 14 points for the Cyclones. DeAndre Kane scored 11 before fouling out.
Foster scored 21 points to lead the Wildcats, who had been holding opponents to 64.9 points, best in the Big 12. Southwell added 19 points, freshman Nigel Johnson had a career-best 17 and big man Thomas Gipson finished with 13 points.
“I guess it was an entertaining game,” Wildcats coach Bruce Weber said. “You shoot 54 percent and scored 85 points and you still don’t win, it’s disappointing.”
Iowa State shot poorly in the first half but dominated on the boards, while the Wildcats couldn’t seem to miss, yet coughed the ball up nine times.
The upshot of it all was that the teams played nearly to a standstill, just as they did in their two regular-season games. They each won at home in the regular season.
Iowa State had a chance to take a comfortable lead into the break, but Southwell scored a fourth-chance bucket with 14 seconds left in the half. Hoiberg called timeout to set up a play, but Kane turned the ball over and Foster hit a 3 before the buzzer.
Instead of leading by double-digits, the Cyclones had to settle for a 44-41 advantage.
They remained one step ahead of the Wildcats until the 12-minute mark, when Thomas made two free throws and Omari Lawrence made another to give Kansas state a 60-59 lead. It was the first time that Kansas State had played from ahead since there was 7:30 left in the first half.
By that point, the game resembled a boxing match.
Every time Kansas State scored, the Cyclones answered the jab. Whenever Iowa State would pull ahead, the Wildcats delivered a blow of their own. And more than once, the officiating crew had to peel bodies off the floor while calming down red-faced coaches on both benches.
The fouls started to pile up, too. Foster picked up his fourth foul with 11 minutes left, and Kane took a seat on the Iowa State bench with four fouls and 9:57 to play.
Hoiberg was the first one to tempt fate by putting Kane back in with about 6 minutes left, but he was called for an offensive foul with 3:55 remaining. Kane clearly took exception to it, staring down the official who called it while the teams huddled during the under-4 timeout.
The Cyclones still led 76-74 at that point, but slowly crept out to a lead down the stretch, and then made due without Kane during a tense final push by Kansas State. Long scored for an 85-80 lead and, after Gipson scored for the Wildcats, Niang’s spinning layup made it 87-82.
Foster hit a 3 to give Kansas State a chance, but the Cyclones held on in the final minute.
“They’re a really good team,” Hogue said. “We were just able to make some stops and hit some shots down the stretch.”