Maligned by under-performing its potential at many times during the season, Baylor is making a push in the Big 12 Tournament, facing the Iowa State Cyclones Saturday night in the Big 12 Championship game.
Iowa State put itself in the final with a strong showing in the second half against the top-seeded Kansas Jayhawks, missing Joel Embiid. The No. 4 Cyclones hit over half of their three-point attempts (11-of-19) while shooting 57 percent for the game. All five starters scored in double figures, led by Georges Niang with 25 and DeAndre Kane with 20, which included him hitting five out of six threes.
Each of the Cyclones' leading scorers made impacts beyond their scoring, with Niang notching seven assists and two boards and Kane being a true stat-sheet stuffer with six rebounds, six assists, two steals and a block. Star frosh Andrew Wiggins struggled shooting, going 7-of-21, but still scored 22. Perry Ellis kept the Jayhawks close by scoring 30 points on 11-of-12 shooting. Neither needs to worry about making it into the NCAA Tournament, but the win for the Cyclones will help their seeding.
Taking on the Cyclones will be the Baylor Bears. Baylor has been criticized for not playing up to its talent level all season long, but is putting everything together at the right time. First, the Bears took down Oklahoma, and now the dismantling of Texas keeps pushing Baylor toward a higher seed. The win over Texas was Baylor's fourth.
In the second game of the current streak, the Bears' opponent was this very Iowa State team. Brady Heslip went 5-for-8 for 18 points. Every attempt was from behind the three-point line, which is no surprise. His only attempts within the arc were three free throws after being fouled attempting a shot from deep. Baylor won the game, 74-61.
Championship game: Iowa State vs. Baylor 9 p.m. ET, ESPN
Here is a link to the Big-12 Tournament bracket: