KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Iowa State got “punked” the previous two times it played Baylor this season.
Guards Lindell Wigginton and Tyrese Haliburton used that word to describe what happened when these teams met in the regular season and used it as motivation to make sure it didn’t happen again.
“We don’t want to cuss, so we’ve been using the word ‘punked’ to describe it.” Haliburton said with a laugh.
Iowa State handled Baylor, 83-66, on Thursday at Sprint Center in the quarterfinals of the Big 12 men’s basketball tournament.
“We were mad,” Wigginton said. “They came in our home and punked us. They punked us on the boards, they punked us on defense and offense — they punked us all around. We felt like we had to bring it to them. We were mad coming into this game.
“We wanted to win really bad.”
The Cyclones (21-11) held the Bears (19-13) to just 43 percent shooting from the field and 36 percent shooting from beyond the arc. Meanwhile, Iowa State shot 52 percent from the field and the 3-point line.
“Offensively we got back to being who we are,” Iowa State Coach Steve Prohm said. “We got stops, played in transition, moved the ball. In the biggest game, on the biggest stages, your best players have to perform.”
And Iowa State’s best players did. Seemingly the whole team was feeling it on Thursday.
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Freshman Talen Horton Tucker led all scorers with 21 points on 8-of-15 shooting, four rebounds, three blocks and two assists. Senior Marial Shayok had 18 points on 7-of-12 shooting. Lastsly, Wigginton had 16 points on 4-of-9 shooting while aggressively driving to the basket and drawing fouls. Wigginton went 8 of 9 from the free throw line.
“Talen played great, Marial was great, Lindell was great off the bench,” Prohm said. “You saw a true team today. Guys pulling for each other, guys genuinely happy for each other.”
Iowa State’s offense was working so well, in large part, due to its defense. The Cyclones were physical with the Bears and did their best to keep them off the offensive boards.
“Matching their physicality and toughness had to be a point of emphasis,” Prohm said. “Getting beat up physically can take its toll mentally, too. The more you get beat up on the glass and second-chance points, the slower you become as a team offensively — slow the opposite is the strength of our team.
“I said, ‘At some point, you have to belly up and compete the right way defensively and on the glass.’ You saw that point of emphasis until the very end of the game.”
Iowa State was on a three-game losing streak coming into the game and had lost six of its last eight.
Prohm had no doubt his team would get out of the funk and figure it out.
“Sometimes seasons get long and you get hit a little bit and you have to figure out when you’re going to respond,” Prohm said. “I knew they were going to respond at some point. I think guys are fresh right now, practice was really good and competitive, and we have a really good team. You’re not going to keep a really good team down — we’re not going to go out like that.”
Iowa State plays No. 1-seed Kansas State (25-7) in the semifinals Friday at 6 p.m. The teams split their regular-season series, each winning on the road.
“We ain’t getting punked no more,” Haliburton said.
Now, the challenge will be to see if Iowa State can keep up this level of toughness and intensity.
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“If we play like we did today, we can take down anybody in the country,” Wigginton said. “I feel like we have all the pieces. Once we’re clicking and playing together, I feel like nobody can beat us.”
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