KANSAS CITY, Mo. — The Iowa State men’s basketball team went into the Big 12 tournament in Kansas City on a three-game losing streak.
The Cyclones are leaving Kansas City on a three-game winning streak.
Iowa State beat No. 18 Kansas 78-66 Saturday at Sprint Center to win its fourth Big 12 tournament championship in six seasons.
“We just fought,” Iowa State forward Michael Jacobson said. “We were dead. We were dead in the water. People were counting us out and we fought, and we fought. We built some momentum against Texas Tech (in the regular-season finale) and we just tried to build on it, keep it rolling and that’s what we did.”
The Cyclones’ struggles over the past three weeks have been well-documented. It all came to a head in a practice before and during the West Virginia game last Wednesday. Jacobson said it was all for the best.
“The skirmish in practice between me and Lindell (Wigginton), the one everyone saw between me and Talen (Horton-Tucker) and the one in practice between Marial (Shayok) and George (Conditt) were well-documented,” Jacobson said. “But you have to have that stuff sometimes.
“You have to break yourself down to build yourself back up. That’s what we did.”
Iowa State’s 2017 Big 12 tournament championshipo team won six out of its last seven before it went on to win the title. The 2019 team took a different route, but coach Steve Prohm said it was an easy fix.
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“When you’re dealing with 18-to-22-year-old student athletes it can flip quick,” Prohm said. “It can go sideways quick, but it can get back on track quick. Our character is really good. Nick Weiler-Babb, Marial Shayok and Zoran Talley — the seniors — are leaving with a Big 12 championship. We have to enjoy this.”
Shayok was named the tournament’s Most Outstanding Player. The senior transfer from Virginia was the reason Iowa State was in the game thanks to his two big 3-pointers against Kansas State. Against Kansas, he had 15 points, four rebounds and three assists.
“It means a lot to win a championship,” Shayok said. “After transferring, a lot of people doubted and said I shouldn’t have left with my one year left. I believed in coach Prohm and coach Prohm believed in me and had confidence in me to lead this team. To win a Big 12 championship is everything.”
Shayok was joined by Wigginton and Jacobson on the all-tournament team.
Wigginton averaged 14 points, four rebounds and two assists through the tournament. Jacobson nearly averaged a double-double with 9.7 points and 9.3 rebounds.
“(All three of us) are big-moment players,” Wigginton said. “We’re all gym rats, we stay in the gym 24/7. It was bound to show, and it showed tonight.”
Iowa State (23-11) controlled the game throughout, but Kansas (25-9) produced a couple of runs. The Jayhawks went on two separate 7-0 runs that brought them within striking distance. Prohm called a timeout to stem the first one and freshman Tyrese Haliburton hit a 3-pointer to stop the second.
“We kept our foot on their neck,” Horton-Tucker said.
Haliburton’s 3 came immediately after he had air-balled a 3-pointer on the previous possession.
“(Haliburton’s) shot was big-time,” Wigginton said. “We give confidence in him to shoot the ball. He went out there and did that tonight.”
Haliburton finished with 11 points on 4-of-6 shooting.
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At the end of the game, Prohm motioned for his bench players to go in. They didn’t want to.
Prohm believes that moment will have profound impact on this team.
“That’s when we finally became selfless,” Prohm said. “To let the (starters) have their moment says a lot.”
Iowa State’s team and togetherness have been in question over the last weeks of the regular season.
Winning the Big 12 tournament should silence that talk before the NCAA tournament starts next week.
“It was a great team win,” Wigginton said. “It was our best team win. We came in and showed resilience, fight and everybody gave it their all on the floor.”
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