Andrew Wiggins-led Kansas is two wins away from earning more hardware after pulling out a hard-earned victory in its Big 12 tournament opener.
While the Jayhawks have another tough opponent awaiting them in Iowa State, they haven't had much trouble against the Cyclones of late.Tenth-ranked Kansas goes for a 19th win in 20 games against No. 16 Iowa State as these schools meet in the semifinals Friday night at the Sprint Center.Wiggins carried the top-seeded Jayhawks (24-8) in Thursday's 77-70 overtime victory over Oklahoma State, posting 30 points while shooting 9 of 17. Kansas ended the game on a 9-0 run, with all but two of those points coming at the foul line."It was an unbelievable game. Two teams competing hard, and certainly I think the first day of the most competitive league in America hasn't disappointed so far," said coach Bill Self, whose team has earned at least a share of 10 consecutive regular-season conference championships."That took everything we had. We had to play out of foul trouble, and I think it took everything Iowa State had to win earlier today. So you'll have two tired teams that have to recover fast and get ready (for Friday)."Wiggins finished one point shy of Wayne Simien's team record for most in a Big 12 tournament game, but did set a new freshman record. His 71 points over the last two games are the most by a Jayhawk since they started keeping track in 1988-89."He played a heck of a game," Cowboys coach Travis Ford said of Wiggins. "They're just a heck of a basketball team."The fourth-seeded Cyclones (24-7) can surely relate.Kansas has taken five straight from Iowa State, going 25-3 in the series dating to 2002. The Jayhawks won 77-70 in Ames on Jan. 13, and 92-81 at home later that month. Wiggins had 17 points and a season-high 19 rebounds in the first matchup before scoring 29 in the second."Kansas is a team that you've already played twice," Cyclones coach Fred Hoiberg said. "We know everybody. Everybody knows us."Iowa State also kept its title hopes alive Thursday, getting by Kansas State 91-85. Big 12 player of the year Melvin Ejim had 24 points and 10 rebounds while Dustin Hogue added 19 and 10 as the Cyclones held a 38-29 edge on the glass."It was real physical," forward Georges Niang said. "Every team is trying to will their team to win. So people are playing extremely hard and at a high level."We just executed better down the stretch and that was key to the game."Ejim, averaging a team-leading 18.4 points, totaled just 33 against Kansas this season while shooting 42.9 percent, significantly lower than his season mark of 50.8."It's always hard to beat Kansas, especially in this building. They have the fan base to back them up," Oklahoma State star Marcus Smart said. "They have the energy and momentum from their fans and it kind of takes the opposing team out of it."The Jayhawks continue to play without center Joel Embiid, who remains out indefinitely with a stress fracture in his back. The 7-foot freshman had a combined 30 points, 20 rebounds and six blocks while shooting 70.6 percent against the Cyclones in January.
Kansas focused on slowing Iowa State from the perimeter in the second half, and the Cyclones scored 14 more paint points than in the first half. Georges Niang scored 12 of Iowa State's 26 paint points in the second half.
Although Andrew Wiggins struggled from the outside, he continued his aggressiveness from the previous two games. Wiggins shot at least 10 free throws for the third straight game after doing so four times in his first 30 games.