After winning a pair of thrilling overtime contests in the regular season, the top-seeded Jayhawks look to punch their ticket to the title game by sweeping the fifth-seeded Cyclones in Kansas City on Friday night.
Iowa State (22-10) advanced to the semis and may have locked up an at-large berth in the NCAA tournament with a 73-66 victory over Oklahoma on Thursday.
Junior Melvin Ejim finished with 23 points and 12 rebounds and senior Will Clyburn had 17 and eight boards as the Cyclones used a 12-0 second-half run to win their first league tournament game since 2005.
The victory also set up a third meeting with the Jayhawks (27-5), who took care of business with a 91-63 rout over Texas Tech on Thursday.
“I can’t wait for the opportunity,” Clyburn said. “They beat us twice during the year. Probably games we shouldn’t have lost, but, hey, I’m ready for payback.”
Kansas guard Ben McLemore, who had 24 points against the Red Raiders, also stepped up in a 97-89 overtime victory over the Cyclones on Jan. 9 in Lawrence. The redshirt freshman finished with 33 points and hit all six of his 3-point attempts - including a game-tying bank shot with one second left at the end of regulation.
Elijah Johnson proved to be the hero in the second meeting, pouring in a career-high 39 points in a 108-96 overtime victory on Feb. 25.
The senior guard scored eight in the final 29 seconds of regulation and 12 in overtime as Kansas put together another late rally to snap the Cyclones’ 22-game home winning streak.
“Those two games may be the two most exciting games played in our league this year,” said Kansas coach Bill Self, who captured his 500th career victory in the February contest.
McLemore is again playing well for the regular-season co-champs, averaging 24.0 points and hitting 14 of 28 from beyond the arc his last four games.
Senior Jeff Withey totaled 28 points and 22 rebounds while recording a pair of double-doubles against the Cyclones, and he’s shot 21 of 23 from the field while recording 20 blocks in his last four contests.
The Jayhawks shot a tourney-record 66.0 percent from the field on Thursday and shot 52.3 percent - hitting 21 of 44 from 3-point range - against Iowa State this season.
The Cyclones, however, showed some improvement in that area on Thursday, limiting Oklahoma to 38.1 percent shooting overall and 3 of 18 from beyond the arc.
Ejim had 19 points and 11 rebounds in the January loss to the Jayhawks, but finished with four and seven while battling foul trouble in the second meeting.
After a scoreless performance Thursday, Korie Lucious will try to get back on track in this contest. The senior guard averaged 19.0 points against Kansas this season.
Clyburn also provided a spark in the two meetings, finishing with 16 points and seven rebounds in each contest.
The Cyclones, who lead the nation with 9.9 3-point field goals per game, have made 31 of 79 from that distance against the Jayhawks.
Kansas won 13 straight games in this series by an average of 15.7 points before a loss in Ames last season.