Kansas City, MO (SportsNetwork.com) - The Iowa State Cyclones are back-to-back Big 12 Tournament champions. And they accomplished the feat in their trademark fashion.
Georges Niang scored 19 points while helping spark a furious Cyclones comeback that vaulted 13th-ranked Iowa State to a thrilling 70-66 victory over No. 9 Kansas in Saturday's title game.
Thoroughly outplayed in the opening half, the Cyclones completely dominated the second to become the first to win two straight Big 12 tourneys since the Jayhawks claimed two of their nine all-time titles in 2010 and 2011.
On this night, however, it was the longtime conference kings who ran out of gas at the finish line in both teams' third game in as many nights.
Kansas went a miserable 5-of-19 from the field and committed eight turnovers after the break, helping the unflappable Cyclones overcome a 17-point deficit by outscoring the Jayhawks 36-12 over a stretch of 14-plus minutes.
"Our offense cost us the second half," Jayhawks head coach Bill Self remarked. "Our offense contributed to our poor defense. But the bottom line is they played take-em, and we had no answer. We didn't do things the second half that we were doing the first half that allowed to us get a lead."
It's the fourth straight game in which Iowa State (25-8) has prevailed despite trailing by double digits.
"With the guys that we have and the coach that we have, we have no quit in us," said Niang, who was named the tournament's Most Valuable Player. "We were all talking about what we had to do and we had to stay positive and push through and I think we did that. It led us to a great thing."
Monte Morris recorded all 11 of his points following the intermission, Niang netted nine in the second half and Abdel Nader contributed 13 points for the Cyclones, including two free throws that snapped a 63-63 tie with 48 seconds remaining.
Wayne Selden Jr. put up a career-best 25 points for Kansas (26-8), but leading scorer Perry Ellis finished with just seven on 2-of-10 shooting and was a non- factor during the Jayhawks' second-half collapse.
The Cyclones were down 37-23 at the half and were in a 17-point hole when Mason sank three throws 26 seconds into the second period.
As it turned out, they had the Jayhawks right where they wanted them.
Iowa State sprung back to life by putting forth a 17-2 run, in which Niang posted seven points and Jameel McKay six and the Cyclones turned four Kansas giveaways into baskets. Selden temporarily stopped the bleeding with a thunderous driving dunk with 13:51 left, though the Jayhawks' lead was still tenuous at 44-40.
Kansas' advantage was still at four when the Cyclones put together a 12-1 spurt to move ahead for the first time since the game's early stages. Consecutive buckets by Bryce Dejean-Jones put ISU up 53-51, and he and Nader each scored on the next two possessions to increase the differential to six with under six minutes to play. After Mason made 1-of-2 free throws, Nader converted another layup for a 59-52 lead.
"I thought Bryce Dejean-Jones' steal and dunk when he got fouled might have been the play of the game -- that kind of got the momentum going for us when he tied the score," said Cyclones head coach Fred Hoiberg. And then Nader just continued to attack the basket. We got him a couple of times isolated on the wing. He's a really talented kid and it was good to see that come out tonight."
However, the Cyclones made just one more field goal the rest of the way -- none in the final 4:41 -- and Kansas closed the gap with its success at the foul line. After six straight free throws brought the Jayhawks within 61-60, Selden got a pull-up in the lane to fall while drawing contact and made the ensuing bonus shot to tie the game with 1:29 to go.
Kansas went 17-of-19 from the charity stripe in the second half and 21-of-23 for the game.
Nader was then fouled while going for the rebound on a Niang missed 3-pointer and drained both attempts, and Niang stole a bad pass from Devonte Graham on the Jayhawks' next trip before Morris went 1-of-2 from the line for a 66-63 advantage with 23.8 seconds on the clock.
Mason drove the lane on the following possession but couldn't get a spinning layup to fall, with ISU's Dustin Hogue coming down with the rebound before hitting two free throws that sealed Kansas' fate.
"When they came back and the pressure was on for us to have some good possessions, we didn't have it," Self said.
Both teams struggled offensively while appearing tired through the first 10 minutes of play, then Jayhawks got hot to make the game's initial run.
Ellis knocked down a 3-pointer and Selden and Mason buried jumpers after two empty Iowa State possessions, with the last staking Kansas to a 21-13 lead. Less than three minutes later, Selden finished off an 11-3 spurt with a layup off a Cyclones' turnover to increase the margin to 25-16 with 4:43 left in the opening half.
Iowa State stayed cold, and fell behind by a 37-23 count at the break when triples by Mason and Graham keyed a 10-3 Jayhawks' finish to the period.
Iowa State also downed the Jayhawks in last year's Big 12 Tournament semifinals prior to topping Baylor in the championship game ... Kansas fell to 9-2 all-time in the Big 12 title game, with its lone previous loss coming to Oklahoma in 2000 ... The Cyclones were just 2-of-16 from 3-point range, but scored 22 points of 13 KU turnovers ... Ellis had averaged 21.5 points in the Jayhawks' last four matchups with ISU and amassed 30 points in last year's semifinals loss to the Cyclones ... McKay ended with 11 points and eight rebounds.