Iowa State and Baylor both stumbled early in Big 12 play, but one will leave Kansas City as the conference tournament champion.
The 16th-ranked Cyclones look for their first title in 14 years Saturday night while the Bears are seeking their first in school history in their third trip to the finals.
Iowa State (25-7) matched its second-highest win total in school history with a 94-83 semifinal victory over No. 10 Kansas on Friday. The Cyclones had lost 18 of 19 in the series with the regular-season champion Jayhawks.
Georges Niang scored 25 points and was 7 of 10 in the second half as Iowa State claimed a 48-35 advantage over the final 20 minutes. The Cyclones' 91 points in Thursday's win over Kansas State were the most allowed this season by the Wildcats, while Friday's output marked the most given up by Kansas.
Iowa State earned the tournament's fourth seed with a 11-7 league record, but started league play 3-4, including a stretch of three straight losses.
"It's a great win for us, for the fact it gives us confidence we can compete with anyone in the nation," coach Fred Hoiberg said after leading his alma mater to its first conference title game since 2000.
Iowa State won the title that year and eventually reached the NCAA regional finals.
"It was good to finally get one of these after struggling to close out games against Kansas the past few years," he said.
DeAndre Kane tallied 20 points and was 5 of 6 from 3-point range, while conference player of the year Melvin Ejim added 19.
The Cyclones had taken four straight in the series with Baylor - including an 87-72 home win on Jan. 7 over the then-No. 7 Bears - prior to a 74-61 loss in Waco on March 4. Baylor ended that game on a 13-0 run and was the only team to hold Iowa State below 70 points this season.
The January loss triggered a 2-8 conference start for the Bears (24-10), who have won 10 of 11 since. They reached their second title game in three years with an 86-69 victory over third-seeded Texas on Friday.
Cory Jefferson had 20 points and 13 rebounds and is averaging 17.4 and 9.8 over his last 10 contests.
"Very proud of how the guys competed," said coach Scott Drew, who notched his 202nd win to become the school's all-time leader. "Playing three games in three days isn't easy,"
Baylor is limiting opponents to 41.6 percent shooting during its 10-1 stretch. Isaiah Austin continues to anchor the Bears' interior defense, swatting seven shots Friday and increasing his three-day total to a tournament-record 17.
Brady Heslip also matched his season high with 24 points and made six 3-pointers. He was 9 of 14 from deep in the season series with Iowa State.
Ejim and Niang were a combined 5 of 25 with 10 points in last week's loss to Baylor.
The Cyclones have won two of the teams' previous three Big 12 tournament meetings, including a 77-57 victory in a 2005 first-round matchup.