Beginning before noon central time on Thursday, Iowa State and Kansas State waged a classic, 91-85 offensive battle before Kansas and Oklahoma State slugged it out 77-70 in overtime to cap one of the most memorable sessions in the history of the Big 12 Tournament at Sprint Center in Kansas City.
The Cyclones and Jayhawks were the first pair of teams to move on to Friday's semifinal round, and they will be joined by the hottest team in the conference, Baylor, along with the imposing Texas Longhorns.
In the day's first game -- one that featured 11 ties and eight lead changes, Iowa State (24-7) allowed offensively challenged Kansas State (20-12) to shoot 54 percent for the game, including better than 47 percent from three, but still managed to hold on late and secure a semifinal berth.
After Marcus Foster knocked in the last three of his team-high 21 points and made the score 87-85 in favor of Iowa St., Cyclones senior and Big 12 Player of the Year Melvin Ejim, who led all scorers with 24 points and also grabbed 10 rebounds, missed a jumper that was corralled by KSU's Omari Lawrence. Lawrence made a sharp outlet pass to senior Shane Southwell, who then dribbled straight down the middle of the floor into the lane and against four ISU defenders.
Freshman Nigel Johnson, who pitched in a career-high 17 points and was 2-of-4 from three-point range, settled in the deep corner to Southwell's right, but Southwell saw him too late and lost control of the ball in a crowd of defenders. ISU's Dustin Hogue ripped his second steal to go with 19 points and 10 boards, and the Cyclones hit a pair of free throws that helped seal the win.
"I'm thinking down two, get to the basket, get a layup or get fouled," Southwell said afterward. "I only saw Niang and a couple people trailing back for Iowa State. In my mind, I'm thinking get to the basket.
"At the last minute, I heard Nigel yell my name, and then I looked and tried to pass it to him when I brought it around, and I lost the ball. I just had tunnel vision."
Iowa State finished the day with five players in double figures. Freshman point guard Monte Morris posted 10 assists against one turnover.
The Wildcats' loss tunnels them into a projected No. 8 or No. 9 seed in next week's NCAA Tournament. Iowa St. is a probably a No. 3 or No. 4, depending on the rest of its conference tournament.
Wiggins gets 30 in Kansas' 77-70, OT win against Cowboys
Following the first game's offensive showcase, top-seed Kansas (24-8) got 30 points from Andrew Wiggins and OSU's Marcus Smart missed several late jumpers as the Jayhawks survived a spunky Oklahoma St. (21-12) to advance.
In the first half, Kansas smothered No. 8 seed Oklahoma State, holding OSU to just 23 points. However, KU couldn't fully capitalize while committing several turnovers and took a nine-point lead to the break. OSU committed just two turnovers through the first 40 minutes, paving the way to a 44-point second half and the overtime period.
Once there, however, Smart missed three jumpers and OSU turned the ball over twice. Naadir Tharpe hit four consecutive free throws, with the last one pushing KU's lead to the final score with one second remaining.
Four Oklahoma State players finished in double figures, paced by Le'Bryan Nash's 19. Phil Forte had 16. Smart wound up with 14 points on 4-of-14 shooting, and Markel Brown, who Wiggins guarded most of the game, had 12 points and one rebound.
With Villanova losing to Seton Hall on Thursday, Kansas appears back in serious No. 1 seed consideration. Oklahoma St. was competitive to the point that it is likely looking at anywhere from a No. 5 to a No. 7 seed, despite a mid-year, seven-game losing streak that included four losses with Smart in the lineup.
Baylor explodes early, then holds back Oklahoma
Baylor jumped out to a 10-0 lead, built it to a 21-point advantage early in the second half, and then had to hold of a hard-charging No. 2-seed Oklahoma, 78-73, in the first game of the evening session at Sprint Center.
The win gave BU head coach Scott Drew his 201st at Baylor (23-10), tying him as the school's all-time winningest coach. The Bears are now 9-1 in their last 10 games and haven't lost since Feb. 26 -- a 74-69 loss to Texas.
Five Bears finished in double figures, led by Isaiah Austin, who had little trouble finding quality shots, or blocking them, against the Sooners' shorter front line. Cory Jefferson and Royce O'Neal each had a double-double (14 and 11, 12 and 10, respectively) in an effort that simply overpowered OU.
Still, Oklahoma (23-9) charged back in the second half, cutting a 21-point lead at the 17:03 mark down to four with with 1:30 remaining. Freshman point guard Jordan Woodard missed a three with just a little over a minute to go, and Baylor put the game away with solid free throw shooting.
"We just got too comfortable, I feel like," said OU's Cam Clark. "We've just gotta come out more aggressive from the start.; playing like we have something to lose."
Clark turned in a game-high 19 points, and Buddy Hield added 15 points and seven rebounds. They were the only Sooners in double figures.
Texas rolls against virtual no-show West Virginia
In what was by far the worst game of the day, Texas took advantage of a simply disastrous outing by the West Virginia Mountaineers and coasted into Friday with a 66-49 win.
Longhorns (23-9) forward Jonathan Holmes led all scorers with 20 points. Point guard Javan Felix tallied 16. The duo combined to score the first 17 Texas points, and every Longhorns player who entered the game scored. Brandon Watkins was the lone double-figures scorer for the Mountaineers (17-15). He finished with 10 points.
Atrocious shooting from WVU in the first half -- 6-of-33 (18.2 percent) FG -- allowed Texas to coast to a 21-point, half-time lead. It was more of the same in the second half as the Longhorns' lead ballooned to 30 points with 9:47 remaining.
It was the first time all season that neither Eron Harris nor Juwan Staten scored in double digits for the Mountaineers. The 49-point total was a season low for WVU.
"Well, I certainly didn't see it coming," WVU head coach Bob Huggins said. "I thought we practiced -- we had three pretty enthusiastic days of practice."
The surprise was equal on the other side.
"I thought we did a pretty good job for the most part [defensively], but you don't expect it to be easy," Texas head coach Rick Barnes said. "You never expect that."
The semifinals of the Big 12 Tournament are set to begin at 6 p.m central time on Friday. Kansas and Iowa State will play the first game, with Baylor and Texas to tip 30 minutes after the conclusion of the first game.