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KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Deonte Burton is as unique a person as he is a basketball player.
His pink shoes and socks stick out as much as his physical talent. A combination of bulky size — he’s 6-foot-5 and 250 pounds — and athletic freakishness make Burton a tough draw for anybody in his way.
The Iowa State senior forward let No. 8 seed TCU find that out the hard way in No. 4 seed Iowa State’s 84-63 win Friday night in the Big 12 tournament semifinals.
Iowa State (22-10) advances to its third Big 12 tournament title game in four years, and will face No. 2 seed West Virginia at 5 p.m. Saturday (ESPN).
“I just came out and really wanted to win this game,” Burton said. “It was a personal game for me just because we want to go deeper than we did last year.”
Burton’s 22 points (8-of-16 from the field) with five rebounds, four assists and a block, steal and turnover in 31 minutes indicate just how big a cog in the machine he is. His quick trigger looks impulsive — and it is — but his instincts can be as useful as his physical gifts.
Figuring out the balance between reining Burton in while figuring out how to optimize his talents has been one of Iowa State coach Steve Prohm’s biggest challenges the last 21 months.
“I was trying to get to know him, too, and develop a relationship with him,” Prohm said. “We probably weren’t in a perfect marriage, but I don’t know if we weren’t on the same page.
“I think we’ve come a long way and I think if you asked him today, I think he trusts me and obviously I trust him.”
Understanding Burton is like peeling back the layers of an onion. Prohm has lauded his intelligence when the two sit down for one-on-one meetings, and conversations with teammates can go in all sorts of directions too.
“He’s goofy, funny,” said point guard Monte Morris, who had 15 points, three rebounds and three assists. “Me and him have been rooming for 31 games now, so I know him like the back of my hand.
“Honestly (before games we) just eat wings and watch Forensic Files or FaceTime, honestly. No sports.”
Iowa State has several guys that could be considered X-factors, Burton being one. But when they are all clicking on the same night, it makes the opposition’s margin for error razor thin.
TCU (19-15) took a 10-6 lead after the first six minutes, but most of the drama subsided shortly after. Iowa State had a 17-point lead at halftime and was up by as many as 26 midway through the second half.
The Cyclones had Burton, Morris and Naz Mitrou-Long (11 points) in double figures while they shot 56.4 percent from the field — they made 12 3-pointers. TCU shot below 40 percent as it played its third game in three nights.
Solomon Young poured in nine points while Donovan Jackson and Nick Weiler-Babb came off the bench with eight points each.
A win in the Big 12 tournament final would give Iowa State’s senior class 99 career wins, tying it with two other classes for the most in ISU history.
“We’re just clicking on all cylinders,” Mitrou-Long said. “We’re playing for one another, guys don’t care who gets the credit. If the open play is there, we’re going to make the play and if there’s a hot hand we’re going to do everything in our power to get it to him.
“I think we’re really playing for one another and that’s what makes it special.”
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