(AP) — Iowa State will put its undefeated record in Big 12 tournament finals on the line as it faces No. 17 Kansas in Saturday’s title game in Kansas City, Mo. The fifth-seeded Cyclones (22-11) are 4-0 all-time in Big 12 tournament title games.
“That’s what you want to be a part of,” Iowa State coach Steve Prohm told the media following his team’s 63-59 semifinal win over top-seeded Kansas State on Friday. “You’re playing the elite program in our league, (with a) Hall of Fame coach and a bunch of McDonald’s All-Americans. We’ve got a ton of respect for Kansas.”
“There is no pressure (on Iowa State to continue its streak),” Prohm continued. “Our guys don’t know it, and unless you tell them, I’m not going to tell them. I’m proud of where these guys are over the last week of trying to change their habits.”
Standing in the Cyclones’ way will be the third-seeded and 17th-ranked Jayhawks (25-8), who own 11 tournament titles, the only team with more than Iowa State’s four.
“We played them both so early; it’s been like six weeks,” Kansas head coach Bill Self said of the teams’ two regular-season games. “They handled us easily at their place, and then we had to fight and scratch to eke out a win at our place.
“They’re the best offensive team in our league. They’ve got a lot of weapons. They’ve got shooters at four spots around the perimeter. I love their personnel, and they always play good in Kansas City. It should be a fun game.”
The Cyclones advanced to the final by overcoming a 55-50 deficit with 2:47 left by closing the game on a 13-4 run.
“I was most proud of the guys today,” Prohm said. “We were down five late, flipped the script back in Ames. We were up five or seven late and they came back on us. (Tonight) Nick (Weiler-Babb) got two free throws. We chased down a couple of loose balls. Mike (Jacobson) had 16 rebounds, Marial (Shayok’s) 3 rimmed it, and (he) made a shot that a lot of fans here will remember if we’re fortunate to go on and complete this deal tomorrow night.”
Kansas earned its 14th trip to the title game with a resounding 88-74 victory over 10th-seeded West Virginia. Kansas pulled away late in the first half to enter halftime with a 48-40 lead. In the second half, the Jayhawks stretched the lead to as many as 23 points.
“We didn’t get off to a really good start,” Self said. “West Virginia played better than we did the first 15 minutes or so. Then we got hot. We were pretty efficient in the second half.”
Iowa State fans always travel well to Kansas City for the Big 12 tournament, and this season is no different. With Allen Fieldhouse, the home of the Jayhawks, just 45 miles away, Kansas will have plenty of fans in attendance, as well.
“I hope our fans are creative, but I bet Iowa State has 70 percent of the building tomorrow night,” Self said. “They’re pros at hustling tickets in Kansas City. It will be the first time in a long time that we probably won’t have a comparable home-court (advantage).”
–Field Level Media