Big 12 Tournament top-seed Kansas used a 16-0 run to take a 10-point lead in the first half, but No. 4 seed Iowa State torched the nets all game from outside and took down the Jayhawks, 94-83, in the first semifinal on Friday at Sprint Center in Kansas City.
The loss effectively ends any speculation that Kansas (24-9) might take the final No. 1 seed in next week's NCAA Tournament.
"We're not going to be a one, so I'm going to tell you it's definitely better since we're not going to be a one," said KU head coach Bill Self, when asked if it would be better to be the highest two-seed for geographical purposes.
Early on, it appeared Jayhawks forward Perry Ellis was determined to get Kansas its 12th No. 1 seed in what will be the school's 43rd NCAA appearance.
The 6'8 sophomore forward was 9-of-10 from the floor, including a three-pointer, near the beginning of KU's big first-half run that turned a seven-point deficit into a nine-point lead in just 1:59.
"We were probably a little too complicated with a one-day prep, with our schemes as far as when we were going to double, when we weren't," Cyclones head coach Fred Hoiberg said. "The second half we just decided to go anytime [Ellis] caught the ball.
"We did a much better job with our double teams in that second half, and rotations were very good, closing out their shooters."
Ellis was just 2-of-3 from the field and grabbed only two rebounds over the final 20 minutes to finish with 30 points and seven boards. Ellis' teammate, Andrew Wiggins, tried to pick up the slack, dropping in 22 points and also grabbing seven rebounds. However, the freshman sensation's points came on just 7-of-21 shooting, with many of those shots contested.
With its five starters all playing 33 minutes or more and all five scoring in double figures, Iowa St. (25-7) -- making its first Final appearance since winning the title in 2000 -- simply played at a championship level, and not just on a conference note.
"I'm not going to say there's not other teams in the country that aren't potentially as good as Iowa State offensively," Self said. "But, we're not going to play a team, more than likely, in the Tournament that's better than Iowa State was tonight, offensively."
Through two games, the Cyclones have averaged 92.5 points as they also knocked off Kansas State in the quarterfinals, 91-85. ISU needs only 65 points in Saturday's championship game to set a new Big 12 tournament record for point per game. The old record was 83, set by Kansas in 2013.
The scoring brilliance on Friday was led by Georges Niang, who dominated the second half en route to a 25 point, seven assist night. KU's front court had no answer for the versatile, if not quick, 6'7 five-man who left the game early after suffering a bloody cut above his right eye. While not confirmed officially, it was believed the cut may have needed up to five stitches to close.
He appeared on the post game conference podium cleaned up, with a Band-Aid over his eye.
"Do I look better now?" Niang asked. "That's what coach was telling me. I look a little better now."
Going 10-3 since Feb. 1, Iowa State looks more than a little better as it prepares to take on the hottest team in the league -- the Baylor Bears, which will make their third championship game appearance in the past six seasons.
Baylor's run to the championship game
Baylor, 24-10 after sitting 14-9 at the end of January, will play its fourth game in four days (no team has ever won the title on that track), but it may be the only team outside of Kansas that can realistically match up with Iowa State's firepower.
"Iowa State's a great team, and we just played them," Baylor head coach Scott Drew said. "I know they'll have some extra hunger because it's tough to beat a real good team after you just played them. We played one of our better games of the year."
The Bears defeated the Cyclones in Waco on March 4, 74-61.
"They're a team that can win a national championship, and I think they're going to be real successful in the NCAA Tournament."
Despite having lost to Texas twice during the regular season, Baylor had no problem sending Bevo out to pasture in Kansas City.
Baylor settled into a 2-3 zone -- one that has been effective for Drew's team in this tournament -- and Texas' guards didn't respond.
Starting guards Javan Felix and Demarcus Holland were held to two points apiece, and Isaiah Taylor, who was 8-of-18 shooting and finished with 16 points, refused to shoot at times, even when Baylor dropped the top level of its zone well inside the arc. The group's ineffectiveness up top meant Baylor could collapse down in the paint.
"We talked about our guards taking their shots. They didn't," Texas head coach Rick Barnes said. "Isaiah, you know, they're going to back up to 13 feet, he's gotta shoot the ball.
"He doesn't give those post guys a chance to do anything."
Cory Jefferson and Royce O'Neal continued their domination of the glass as they finished with 13 and 10 rebounds, respectively. Jefferson also scored 20 points in 32 minutes. O'Neal added eight, while Isaiah Austin put up 10, five rebounds and seven blocks. He now has 17 blocks in three tournament games.
He may have his chances for more in Saturday's final as Drew indicated the Bears may switch up their defensive game plan against Iowa State.
"I think they're a team that's very hard to zone," Drew said. "I know we got our work cut out for us. If you want to ask me at 3 a.m., i'll have a better idea."
Better idea, Scott: We'll all wait for 8 p.m. central time on Saturday night.