Kansas City, MO (SportsNetwork.com) - After both teams turned the tournament upside down with upsets along the way, the seventh-seeded Baylor Bears and the fourth-seeded Iowa State Cyclones will duke it out at the Sprint Center on Saturday night with the Big 12 Conference Tournament championship at stake.
Baylor (24-10) opened its tournament stay with a 76-68 win over last-place TCU in Wednesday's first round only to follow that up with back-to-back upset victories over No. 2 seed Oklahoma (78-73) and No. 3 seed Texas (86-69) to earn a berth in the title bout for the third time in school history (0-2 in previous championship games). The Bears ran out to a comfortable 15-point lead over Texas in Friday night's semifinal matchup and never broke a sweat in the second stanza, shooting 12-of-24 from 3-point range in the triumph. Brady Heslip make six of those long-range buckets on his way to 24 points. Cory Jefferson tallied a double-double with 20 points and 13 rebounds, Isaiah Austin logged 10 points and seven blocks, Kenny Cherry also scored 10 and Royce O'Neale hauled in 10 rebounds to round out the balanced attack.
After taking down Kansas State in the quarterfinals on Thursday 91-85, Iowa State (25-7) punched its ticket to the championship game by knocking off top- seeded Kansas in the semifinal round, 94-83, for its school-record eighth win over a nationally-ranked team on the campaign. After facing a two-point deficit at intermission, the Cyclones shot a blistering 68 percent from the field over the final 20 minutes to capture the 11-point victory. All five starters scored in double figures, paced by 25 points on 11-of-22 from the field by Georges Niang, who also handed out seven assists. DeAndre Kane tallied 20 points, six rebounds and six assists, Melvin Ejim poured in 19 points and Dustin Hogue and Monte Morris netted 12 and 11 points, respectively.
The teams split two regular-season contests, with each side winning on its home floor by double digits. Iowa State leads the all-time series, 16-10.
The Bears' offensive attack has been stellar this season, shooting 45.7 percent from the field for 75.5 ppg, and their biggest advantage comes in the frontcourt, where they earn an outstanding +7.4 rebounding margin. Pacing the efforts up front are Jefferson, who puts up 13.8 ppg and 8.4 rpg, and Austin, who scores 11.0 ppg and swats away 3.3 shots per contest. Heslip (11.7 ppg) has been deadly from beyond the arc, making 108 3-pointers at a 46.8 percent clip, while Chery (11.4 ppg) dishes out 5.0 apg
The Cyclones have the Big 12's top-ranked scoring offense this season, putting up 83.2 ppg on greater than 47 percent field-goal shooting, which has been good enough to mask a lackluster scoring defense (74.2 ppg). Ejim, the Big 12 Player of the Year, logs 18.4 ppg and 8.5 rpg, while shooting 50.9 percent from the field. Kane stuffs the stat sheet on a regular basis with 17.0 ppg, 6.7 rpg and 5.8 rpg, Niang is also an excellent scorer with 16.6 ppg and Hogue joins Ejim in the frontcourt with 10.7 ppg and 8.7 rpg.