A balanced team generally turns into a good team in a tournament setting. The Cyclones have not only showed balance on offense and defense in two conference tournament games, but Iowa State has featured a balanced attack between experienced players and underclassmen.
Iowa State leaned on offensive explosions from freshmen guards Talen Horton-Tucker and Tyrese Haliburton with complements from senior guard Marial Shayok and sophomore guard Lindell Wigginton in its win over 83-66 Baylor Thursday.
The Cyclones hit turbulence against Kansas State in the semifinal game, but a trio of Iowa State veterans clawed back by winning 63-59.
"I think we just stuck to our defensive principles and then ran in transition," said senior guard Nick Weiler-Babb. "Then [Shayok] came down and hit some big-time shots for us in the end."
Momentum shifted late in the game with a hammer of a dunk from Kansas State's Xavier Sneed to secure a 51-47 lead with about eight minutes left in the game.
Following the Sneed slam, Wigginton chipped in a free throw make and Haliburton earned a dunk of his own through traffic.
The Wildcats stormed back with a pair of buckets, pushing the score to 55-50 with 2:47 on the clock.
Weiler-Babb tackled a pair of free throws, trimming the deficit to 55-52. Iowa State seeked to jump back in the game without its top scorer. Shayok missed the first four shots he found up to this point.
To tie the game, Shayok chucked up a 3-point attempt, and his shot failed to fall yet again. Junior forward Michael Jacobson ripped away the rebound.
With a little cushion off a Weiler-Babb screen, Shayok went up for another three, and it bounced off the rim. As it ricocheted of the iron, the ball spun through the net.
"No, I knew it had to go in," Shayok said on his mindset of the funky made 3-pointer. "I couldn't miss that many in a row."
A missed Kansas State 3-point attempt provided the Cyclones a chance to take the lead with around a minute left.
After the unconventional 3-pointer, the Cyclones turned to Shayok again. With the shot clock winding down, the Canadian guard pulled the trigger on another three.
This attempt excluded the theatrics but finished with the same result.
Another missed three followed on the other end, and Wigginton made one of two free throws to extend the Cyclone lead to 59-55.
To put the final nail in the coffin, the senior duo of Shayok and Weiler-Babb iced the game with a pair of free throws each.
While the conclusion of the game had fans of both teams on their feet, the first half appeared to be building up to an uneventful game.
The Bruce Weber-led Wildcats jumped out to a 21-14 lead with the Cyclones struggling to maintain possession of the ball.
After the sluggish start, the experienced players shouldered more of the load and dug out of the deficit.
Jacobson started heating up down low, chipping in six points off a pair of layups and a jumper. On the glass, Jacobson snared six rebounds in the first half, finishing with a game-high 16 boards.
"I saw my name [on the arena's electronic board]," Jacobson said. "I think I saw it at 11 or 12 [rebounds], and I was like 'Man, just keep going, keep going, keep chasing the basketball.'"
Shayok delivered a four-point play off a made three and a free throw.
On top of the four-point play Shayok added a layup with another foul and completed the 3-point play. On defense, the five on the floor shut down the Wildcat offense.
The late first half surge provided a 10-point lead and helped negate some of the Kansas State run in the second half to earn the win.
An appearance in the Big 12 Championship should bump up Iowa State's NCAA Tournament prestige.
"Just put us in Des Moines," Prohm said toward the NCAA Tournament selection committee. "Whatever it is — Thursday or Friday — we'll be there.
"I think everybody knows we've got a good basketball team we just hit our three week tough stretch at the wrong time."