By Nicholas DeLorenzo, Associate College Basketball Editor
FACTS & STATS: Site: Sprint Center (18,972) -- Kansas City, Missouri.
Television: Big 12 Network, ESPN U. Home Record: ISU 16-1, KU 16-1. Away
Record: ISU 4-8, KU 7-3. Neutral Record: ISU 2-1, KU 4-1. Conference Record:
ISU 11-7, KU 14-4. Series Record: Kansas leads, 173-59.
GAME NOTES: The fifth-seeded Iowa State Cyclones and the top-seeded Kansas
Jayhawks will meet at the Sprint Center on Friday night in the semifinal round
of the Big 12 Conference Tournament, with a trip to Saturday's championship
game versus either Oklahoma State or Kansas State on the line.
Iowa State trailed its quarterfinal matchup against fourth-seeded Oklahoma
late in the game, but staged a improbable rally to come away with the 73-66
win. The Cyclones have now won three in a row and six of their last eight to
improve to 22-10, and they now appear to be safely in the field of 68 for next
week's NCAA Tournament.
Save for a head-scratching three-game losing streak in early February, Kansas
has been one of the nation's elite teams this season at 27-5 overall. The
Jayhawks suffered a disappointing loss at Baylor to close out the regular
season, 81-58, but they still finished the Big 12 campaign at 14-4, which was
tied with Kansas State for first place, although it earned the No. 1 seed by
virtue of the tiebreaker. The Jayhawks made easy work of Texas Tech in the
Kansas defeated Iowa State twice this season, but both matchups needed
overtime to be decided. The Jayhawks have a firm handle on the storied all-
time series versus the Cyclones, 173-59.
The Cyclones appeared to be on their way to an early exit in the tournament in
Thursday's quarterfinals, as they trailed Oklahoma by 12 points with less than
eight minutes to play, but they ripped off a 25-6 run to close out the game
and capture the thrilling victory. They had a modest afternoon from the floor
(.426), and they were flat out disappointing from 3-point range (7-of-26), but
they were aided by a perfect night from the foul line (14-of-14) and
dominating advantage on the glass (43-31). Melvin Ejim was a beast in the
paint with 23 points and 12 rebounds, Will Clyburn added 17 points, Georges
Niang and Chris Babb netted 10 points apiece, and Korie Lucious made up for an
0-of-8 day from the field by dishing out nine assists. Iowa State, which ranks
fourth in the nation in scoring (79.8 ppg), does most of its damage from 3-
point range, shooting 316-of-845 from beyond the arc (.374). Clyburn leads the
way with 15.3 ppg, Ejim is a force in the trenches with 11.0 ppg and 9.4 rpg,
and Lucious (10.1 ppg) gets others involved with 5.7 apg. Tyrus McGree (13.3
ppg), Niang (11.8 ppg) and Babb (9.3 ppg) rounds out one of the deepest squads
in the nation.
The Jayhawks controlled their matchup with Texas Tech from the opening tip,
shooting an incredible 66.0 percent from the floor while adding a 20-of-23
showing from the foul line. Ben McLemore was on point, draining 8-of-12 from
the field for 24 points, while Rio Adam scored 11 points in just five minutes
off the bench. Kansas is no stranger to impressive all-around performances, as
it not only scores greater than 75 ppg on a lofty 47.8 percent from the field
but it plays stellar defense as well, holding teams to just 35.9 percent
shooting and 61.3 ppg. McLemore (16.9 ppg), a freshman, has proven himself to
be one of the top shooters in the nation, piecing together great percentages
from the field (.507), 3-point range (.437) and the foul line (.867). Jeff
Withey (13.5 ppg, 8.4 rpg) is a tremendous interior defender, coming up with
4.0 bpg. Travis Releford brings 11.7 ppg on nearly 58 percent from the field
to the mix, while Elijah Johnson chips in with 10.0 ppg and 4.8 apg.
These teams match up well against each another, as shown with the two overtime
games during the regular season. But Kansas has the killer instinct to close
out games that Iowa State just doesn't seem to share, giving it the advantage
to top the Cyclones for the third time this year.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Kansas 77, Iowa State 72