OKLAHOMA CITY -- Iowa State had a four-point lead and all the momentum in its Big 12 Conference tournament semifinal with No. 7 Baylor.
Then Jessica Morrow hit a 3-pointer with 5:03 left, and suddenly there seemed to be no way the Bears would lose. They didn't, despite blowing a 12-point second-half lead, beating the Cyclones (No. 19 ESPN/USA Today, No. 18 AP) 63-57 on Saturday afternoon.
Morrow scored a season-high 24 points and hit six 3-pointers in eight tries for Baylor (26-5), which won for the third time in four games without leading scorer and rebounder Danielle Wilson, who is out with a knee injury. Two of those wins have come against ranked teams.
The Bears will face Texas A&M (No. 9 ESPN/USA Today, No. 10 AP) for the tournament title Sunday, having already beaten the Aggies without Wilson in the regular-season finale. Baylor will make its first appearance in the title game since 2006, when the Bears lost to Oklahoma. Baylor won the 2005 tournament title en route to the national championship.
The Bears have won six straight in their series with Iowa State (24-8).
"We're playing for a championship and we're still winning without Danielle," Baylor coach Kim Mulkey said.
Amanda Nisleit led Iowa State with 13 points and nine rebounds while Alison Lacey and Nicky Wieben scored 12 points each. The Cyclones had a five-game winning streak stopped and will learn Monday who they will play in the NCAA tournament.
Baylor led 42-30 after a three-point play by Rachel Allison with 15:14 left, but the Bears didn't score another field goal until the 8:34 mark, allowing Iowa State to rally. The Cyclones pulled even at 44 on a driving layup by Kelsey Bolte with 8:55 left and took their first lead since the opening minutes with 6:40 left, when Nisleit's 3-pointer to made it 47-46.
Iowa State led 52-48 after another 3-pointer by Nisleit with 5:20 left, but managed only one more basket. Seventeen seconds later, Morrow hit the tide-turning 3-pointer.
"In a game like that you can't pick one [play], but that certainly was probably the biggest one," Iowa State coach Bill Fennelly said. "We had some momentum, we got up four, and for some reason we had a hard time guarding her. When we made a defensive mistake she stuck a 3 on us. That's what great players do.
"Believe it or not, Jessica Morrow was the first name on the scouting report, in big black letters: no threes. Didn't work out that way."
Morrow said she was surprised she was open on the play.
"It was basically a flow-of-the-offense-type thing," she said. "The momentum was on their side and we wanted to get that back on our side."
Morrow's fifth 3-pointer put the Bears ahead for good at 54-52 with 3:47 left, and she added another with 1:41 left to push Baylor's lead to 61-57.
"Jessica Morrow has proven the player she has been and she should have been recognized," said fellow Baylor senior Jhasmin Player. "This is her third game in a row Jess stepped up big. She hit shots that seniors hit."
Baylor finished 9 of 14 from 3-point range (64.3 percent), a season high for the Bears from behind the arc. Iowa State went 11 of 24 (45.8 percent) from 3-point range, the 11th time this season the Cyclones have had at least 10 3-pointers in a game.
Mulkey said it wasn't in the Bears' game plan to shoot so many 3-pointers, but said those who took them "had the green light" to do so.
"I don't know what [Fennelly's] defensive game plan was, but from our perspective it looked like he was sagging off so it was hard for us to get to driving lanes and they gave us some open looks and our kids made those shots," Mulkey said.
Allison added 12 points and nine rebounds for Baylor.
Iowa State received an emotional boost from its leading scorer, Heather Ezell, who returned after a one-game absence because of an injury to her right (shooting) hand. Fennelly had said Ezell wouldn't play in the Big 12 tournament, but she entered the game at the 15-minute mark of the first half. She scored six points but we 2 of 11 from the field.
Baylor led 28-22 at halftime. The Bears made 6 of 10 3-point attempts -- with Morrow going 3 for 5 -- while Iowa State was 6 of 12. But the Cyclones struggled with shorter shots, missing their first six 2-point tries and finishing the half 2 of 12.
Iowa State twice led briefly in the early minutes, but Morrow scored eight straight points for Baylor as the Bears seized the lead at the 14-minute mark.