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Crowd helps Iowa State claim Big 12 title

The SportsXchange

KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- It may have been a neutral-site game, but it felt more like a home game for Iowa State.

The 16th-ranked Cyclones surged ahead late to defeat Baylor 74-65 in front of a largely favorable crowd to claim their second Big 12 tournament title -- and first since 2000 -- on Saturday night at the Sprint Center.

"It had a tremendous impact on the game," Iowa State coach Fred Hoiberg said of the crowd support. "Once we took that seal off the rim when (guard) Naz (Long) hit that 3, we just slowly chipped away. Our fans had so much to do with that."

Long's 3-point basket was the first field goal of the game for the Cyclones, who started 0-of-13.

The Cyclones trailed for much of the game, but their fans rallied them. Most in the announced attendance of 19,108 were wearing cardinal and gold, probably more than the 14,376 who pack Hilton Coliseum in Ames, Iowa, for home games.

Iowa State (26-7) was led by guard DeAndre Kane, who was named the tournament Most Outstanding Player, with 17 points. Forward Georges Niang had 13, guards Naz Long and Dustin Hogue 12 each and forward Melvin Ejim 11.

Baylor (24-11), playing its fourth game in four days, was led by guards Kenny Chery with 16 points and Brady Heslip had 14 points.

The all-tournament team included three Cyclones (Kane, Niang and Ejim), one Baylor player (center Isaiah Austin) and Kansas guard Andrew Wiggins.

Both teams are shoe-ins for the NCAA Tournament, and Heslip believes his squad will be in it for the long haul.

"That's our plan," he said of the opportunity to face Iowa State in the Final Four in Dallas. "That was the plan at the beginning of the year and it doesn't change. We don't get to cut these nets down, but we're going to cut some down in Dallas."

Baylor coach Scott Drew, who admitted he needed a day off, was proud of the effort put forth by his team.

"We definitely had enough energy to compete and win the game," he said. "Credit them for winning it.

"I think it was more what Iowa State did. They hit big shots, made big plays down the stretch. I mean, if they don't hit those big shots, then maybe it's a different story."

After a sluggish first 30 minutes, the intensity picked up. Neither team could establish much momentum early in the second half. Baylor opened as much as an eight-point lead, but Iowa State hung close. The Cyclones were hindered by Ejim's third foul early in the half.

Iowa State kept chipping away at the lead until another 3-pointer by Long tied the score for the first time at 50 with 6:30 left. Ejim followed with a 3-pointer of his own and Iowa State had its first lead at 53-50 with 5:46 left.

"Naz Long really just opened it up," Niang said. "When they had to worry about where he was at, that opened up a lot of things in the middle for Melvin, Dustin, for me to get even better looks and one-on-one chances with Austin.

"I give a lot of credit to Naz, knocking down those shots (was) huge for us. I think hitting some outside shots was really the key to open up the inside of the paint for us."

After Iowa State took the lead, the teams traded buckets and momentum, including back-to-back treys by Heslip and Long. Iowa State finally got some breathing room on another 3-pointer by Ejim, which gave the Cyclones a 62-58 lead, but Heslip answered with two free throws.

Austin stepped to the line for a 1-and-1 and his team down by four with just over two minutes left, but he missed the front end. Niang was fouled on the rebound and he hit both ends of a 1-and-1 on the other end.

Iowa State pulled away late from the free throw line. After the 0-of-13 start from the field, the Cyclones hit 24-of-35 (68.6 percent) the rest of the game.

Fortunately for the Cyclones -- or maybe because of the Cyclones -- Baylor struggled from the field as well. When forward Dustin Hogue scored in the lane and was fouled with 7:21 left, he hit the subsequent free throw to cut the lead to 18-11.

"We shot 32 percent in the first half, and we were lucky to shoot that," Hoiberg said. "But we held them to 34, and that's why we weren't in too big of a hole."

Both teams struggled from the field in the first half, shooting a combined 33 percent. Iowa State gradually crawled back into the game and cut the margin to 32-27 at the half.

NOTES: No. 4 seed Iowa State's matchup against No. 7 seed Baylor was the lowest combined seeds in the championship game since No. 1 seed Kansas beat No. 10 seed Missouri in 1997. ... This was the 10th time a team from Texas played in the final (the third time for Baylor). Texas teams are 0-10 in championship games. ... This was the fifth time a team played in the final with its fourth game in four days, the first since No. 9 seed Baylor lost to Missouri in 2009. Those teams are now 0-5.
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