KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — Kansas coach Bill Self made sure to remind his team at halftime Saturday night that Iowa State has a penchant for putting together dramatic comebacks.
The Jayhawks must have forgotten by the time they got to the floor.
After building a 17-point lead in the opening minute, the ninth-ranked Jayhawks let it all slip away. Georges Niang scored 19 points, Abdel Nader hit the go-ahead foul shots with 48 seconds left and the No. 13 Cyclones beat Kansas 70-66 for the Big 12 Tournament championship.
“We knew they were a comeback team,” Jayhawks guard Frank Mason III said. “We wanted to stay in attack mode, keep the lead up, keep them from getting easy baskets.”
Instead, the Cyclones proved their immunity to pressure.
It was the fifth straight game — including all three in the tournament — that they rallied from a double-digit deficit, prompting Niang to dub his scrappy teammates the “Comeback Kids.”
Nader finished with 13 points, and Jameel McKay and Monte Morris had 11 each for the Cyclones (25-8), who also knocked off the Jayhawks on their way to winning the title a year ago.
“We talked about not thinking, ‘Hold them off’ — then you’re on defense, if you think that,” Self said. “We talked about extending the lead at halftime.”
They did on three free throws by Mason. But that’s when Iowa State began reeling them in.
As the final seconds ticked off the clock, the Cyclones streamed onto the floor and chants of “I-S-U” echoed through the Sprint Center.
“We don’t want to come back every time but it just seems to keep happening to us,” Niang said. “If that’s our emergency button, if that’s what we have to do, we’ll do it.”
Wayne Selden Jr. had a career-high 25 points to lead the Jayhawks (26-8), who edged Iowa State and Oklahoma by a game to win the regular-season crown. Mason added 13 points.
Even after blowing its lead, Kansas still had chances to steal the win.
After Nader’s two foul shots made it 65-63, the Jayhawks raced the other way. Freshman guard Devonte’ Graham went to the basket but was out of control, turning the ball over.
Kansas fouled and Morris made the second of two free throws for a 66-63 lead with 23.8 seconds left. But rather than try to tie the game with a 3, Self opted to go to the rim. Mason missed a spinning layup, Dustin Hogue gathered the rebound and Iowa State began to celebrate.
“We got down 17 and they were still talking and positive in the huddle,” Cyclones coach Fred Hoiberg said, “and that’s a great sign, when your guys can stick together through adversity.”
They’re getting quite accustomed to it.
With their athletic director, Jamie Pollard, recovering in the hospital from a heart attack, the Cyclones went on a 12-0 finishing run capped by a buzzer-beater from Morris to knock off Texas in the quarterfinals. Then they rallied from an 11-point hole in the semifinals, a game that ended when Oklahoma’s Ryan Spangler missed a tying layup at the horn.
Their comeback Saturday night may have been the most impressive yet.
After trailing 37-23 at the break and watching Mason hit three straight foul shots to start the second half, Iowa State rallied against one of the Big 12’s best defenses. Niang led the way with seven points during a 17-2 run that forced Self to burn several timeouts.
Selden tried to answer the charge, elevating high above the rim and spearing an alley-oop pass from Mason with one hand before slamming it through.
Iowa State kept on coming, though.
With relentless pressure in the half-court, the Cyclones kept forcing the Jayhawks into difficult shots — when they weren’t turning them over. Eventually, Iowa State embarked on a 10-0 run capped by Bryce Dejean-Jones’s basket for a 57-51 lead with 6 minutes left.
BUMPS AND BRUISES
The Jayhawks’ Perry Ellis, who returned from a knee injury for the semifinals, played 30 minutes but was just 2-of-10 shooting. “He’s not 100 percent but the great thing is he got through it,” Self said. “Give him six of seven days and he’ll be fine.”
Iowa State: The Cyclones won despite going 2 for 16 from beyond the arc. They had just six turnovers. … McKay also had eight rebounds.
Kansas: The Jayhawks had won 19 of the last 22 meetings with Iowa State. … Kansas was 21 of 23 from the foul line. … The Jayhawks were outscored 46-22 in the paint.
Iowa State coach Fred Hoiberg earns a $50,000 bonus for making for the NCAA Tournament.
Kansas learns whether it will open the NCAA Tournament in nearby Omaha, Nebraska.