K-State Falls To No. 16 ISU at Big 12 Championship

March 13, 2014

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K-State Athletics

KANSAS CITY, Mo. - Big 12 Player of the Year Melvin Ejim paced a balanced Iowa State attack with a game-high 24 points, as the 16th-ranked Cyclones advanced to the semifinals of the Phillips 66 Big 12 Championship with a 91-85 win over Kansas State on Thursday at the Sprint Center.

In match-up of the Big 12's top scoring offense (Iowa State) and top scoring defense (K-State) in the regular season, offense won out as both teams connected on 50 percent from the field, including better than 53 percent in the second half. The two teams combined for 80 points in the paint and 30 fast-break points, while the Wildcats received a season-high 41 points from its bench.

"It was an entertaining game," said head coach Bruce Weber. "I know we didn't guard as well as we needed to, but you have to give it to Iowa State. They're good. All three games (this season) came down to the last couple of minutes with the score tied. They made the plays and today they stepped up and made some shots to give them the victory."

The potent Cyclone (24-7) offense, which came into the game averaging a Big 12-best 82.5 points per game, connected on 50 percent (33-of-66) from the field, including 60.7 percent (17-of-28) in the second half. Ejim led five players in double figures and two with double-doubles, as he added a game-tying 10 rebounds to his 24 points. Junior Dustin Hogue also pulled down 10 rebounds to go with 19 points.

K-State, which was two points shy of its season-high, connected on 54.5 percent (30-of-55) from the field, including better than 50 percent in both halves. The 85 points were two short of the 87 scored against Central Arkansas on Dec. 1, 2013, while the 54.5 field goal percentage was just shy of the season-high of 54.9 percent against West Virginia on Jan. 18. The team connected on 50 percent or better in both halves for the first time since the Texas game on Feb. 8, 2014.

The 85 points were also two shy of the Big 12 era-record for most points at a conference championship game of 87 scored against Texas A&M on March 4, 1999.

Freshman Marcus Foster paced four Wildcats in double figures with his team-high 21 points on 8-of-12 shooting, including 3-of-4 from 3-point range. The All-Big 12 Second Team selection registered his 8th 20-point game of the season and his seventh game of 20 or more points in the last 13 games, while he led the team in scoring for the 16th time.

Senior Shane Southwell led the way for the bench with 19 points on 8-of-14 field goals to go with a team-high seven rebounds, while freshman Nigel Johnson scored a season-best 17 points, including a stellar 5-of-5 effort from the free throw line, and junior Thomas Gipson added 13 points.
It marked the first time this season that the Wildcats lost with four or more players in double figures.

Things started off well for K-State, as the squad overcame a quick 4-0 deficit to take a 17-11 lead after a 3-pointer by Johnson at the 13:41 mark of the first half. Trailing 19-13 with 10:59 to play, Iowa State used a 20-9 run to take a 33-28 with less than five minutes to play.

The Cyclones pushed the lead to 44-36 after a lay-up by Ejim with 1:39 to go in the half before a Southwell lay-up and Foster 3-pointer in the last 15 seconds cut it to 44-41 at halftime.

Iowa State pushed the lead to as many as six in the early part of the second half before K-State rallied to first tie it and take its first lead at 60-59 after a free throw by senior Omari Lawrence with 12:01 to play. It was the first lead for the Wildcats since the 7:30 mark of the first half.

The teams battled through seven ties down the stretch, lastly at 78-all after a pair of Gipson free throws.

With the score knotted at 78-all, sophomore Naz Long gave Iowa State the lead for good on a 3-pointer from the top of the key with 2:53 left. The Wildcats were able to close to within 87-85 after a Foster 3-pointer at the 1:04 mark and then got a defensive rebound on an Ejim miss with 31 seconds left.

However, Hogue was able to poke the ball away from Southwell in the lane with 24 seconds, as the Cyclones closed the game out from the free throw line before a Long lay-up finished the scoring.

Joining Ejim and Hogue in double figures were Georges Niang (18), Long (14) and DeAndre Kane (11), while freshman Monte Morris had 10 assists and a game-high three steals.

Kansas State (20-12) will now await its postseason fate, as the Wildcats are looking to advance to the NCAA Tournament for the 28th time in school history, including the school-record fifth consecutive season. The senior class of Omari Lawrence, Ryan Schultz, Shane Southwell and Will Spradling are looking to become just the third in school history to advance to the NCAA Tournament four straight seasons.