KANSAS CITY, Mo. —
Baylor was especially effective against the Cyclones’ big three of Ejim, Niang and Kane, who had carried them to the finals. They combined to miss their first 10 shots.
Still, the Cyclones never allowed their deficit to grow to more than 10 points, and two big baskets by Niang in the closing minutes drew Iowa State within 32-27 at the break.
Baylor, which had led for all but 97 seconds in its first three games, maintained control throughout much of the second half. The Cyclones kept making charges that threatened to tie the game, but it seemed that every time Chery or someone else was there to answer the bell.
Iowa State finally caught up when Long hit his third 3-pointer, and Ejim answered a chant of “Let’s Go Cyclones” from the sea of red with another 3 that gave them a 53-50 lead with 5:45 to go.
The game turned into a tug-of-war down the stretch, the Cyclones taking the lead, the Bears grabbing it right back. It turned into a fitting final few minutes for a conference season that was among the most brutal in league history, and a tournament that was just as competitive.
Iowa State eventually persevered, once again relying on its stars.
Ejim drained a 3-pointer to give the Cyclones a 62-58 lead with 2:45 to go, and after Heslip made two free throws for Baylor, Hogue converted a nifty reverse layup to restore the lead.
Niang’s two free throws with just over 2 minutes left gave Iowa State a 66-60 lead, and then he sealed the game with his driving layup with 36 seconds left, starting a party among Iowa State fans that had been more than a decade in the making.
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