KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Georges Niang walked off the floor in the closing minutes with a bloody towel pressed tightly to his forehead, pumping his fist and riling up the Iowa State fans in the Sprint Center.
Turns out he was just jumpstarting the celebration.
Niang scored 25 points before leaving with that gash above his right eye, and the No. 16 Cyclones held on down the stretch to beat No. 10 Kansas 94-83 Friday night and reach their first Big 12 tournament title game since 2000.
“We love competing for championships,” Niang said later, a bandage over his wound. “Coach says take it one day at a time, but the Big 12 championship is one day away from us.”
DeAndre Kane had five 3-pointers and scored 20 points, and Big 12 player of the year Melvin Ejim added 19 points for the fourth-seeded Cyclones (25-8), who will play for just their second tournament title tonight against Baylor.
The victory for Iowa State represented its first in four tries against Kansas in the Big 12 tournament, and its first over the Jayhawks in Kansas City since March 10, 1996, when the schools were still part of the Big Eight. It also allowed Iowa State to match its 2001 team for the second-most wins in school history, trailing only the 32 wins piled up by the 2000 team.
Incidentally, it was that team that won the Cyclones’ only Big 12 tournament title.
“It’s a great win for us, for the fact it gives us confidence we can compete with anyone in the nation,” Cyclones coach Fred Hoiberg said. “It was good to finally get one of these after struggling to close out games against Kansas the past few years.”
Relying on some hot outside shooting, Iowa State took charge in the second half, and then held on as the top-seeded Jayhawks (24-9) tried to make a late run to get back into the game.