Iowa State has been so good at the Big 12 Tournament in recent years it’s difficult to remember when the Cyclones struggled in this event.
But it wasn’t long ago.
From 2006-2012, Iowa State didn’t win a tournament game. Most years, the Cyclones were closer to the bottom than top of the standings, but for a program that has always embraced and supported the conference tournament, those were the leanest of years.
That stretch has ended with a vengeance.
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Iowa State has reached the Big 12 title game for the third time in four years and will meet West Virginia in the championship game on Saturday. Tipoff is 5 p.m. at Sprint Center (ESPN). The Cyclones won championships in 2014 and 2015.
The teams play contrasting styles that were on full display in the semifinals on Friday.
The Cyclones defeated TCU 84-63, shooting 56 percent. West Virginia beat Kansas State 51-50 despite making only 16 of 60 shots from the field.
“We’re going to have to score more than 51,” Mountaineers coach Bob Huggins said. “Probably.”
The Mountaineers swept the season series against Iowa State, winning 85-72 in Ames in Jan. 31 and 87-76 on March 3 in the regular-season finale. They own a four-game winning streak against Iowa State, dating to last year.
Still, Huggins said the Cyclones are dangerous.
“They make so many shots and score so many points,” Huggins said.
But the Mountaineers play superb defense. Kansas State made four field-goals over the final 13 minutes as West Virginia overcome a 12-point second-half deficit in winning Saturday’s semifinal.
Iowa State will have one decided advantage — the crowd. Morgantown, W.Va., is 860 miles from Kansas City. Ames, Iowa., is 230, and the Iowa State fans take full advantage of the proximity.
“Honestly, we have the best fans in the country, and they travel well,” Iowa State guard Monte Morris said. “So it definitely feels like a home game to us.”
West Virginia is bidding for its first conference tournament championship since winning the Big East in 2010.
Big 12 Tournament championship game
▪ WHO: Iowa vs. West Virginia
▪ WHEN: Saturday, 5 p.m.
▪ WHERE: Sprint Center
▪ TV: ESPN