Hilton Magic is what Iowa State fans call the Cyclones’ home court advantage. But over the years, Kansas hasn’t been caught in the spell. The Jayhawks have won 15 of 23 Big 12 games in Ames.
Sprint Center is another story.
Iowa State beat Kansas 78-66 on Saturday to capture the Big 12 Tournament championship because this is what the Cyclones do in Kansas City.
The tournament title was the fourth in the past six years for Iowa State. Twice, the Cyclones defeated KU in the final, and every time Iowa State plays in this building it feels like a home crowd.
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Fans snap up their allotment and then some. Each Big 12 school gets 800 tournament tickets. Iowa State took those, asked for more and wound up with 2,100 from the league.
Then fans scour the secondary market and the Cyclones often wind up with a majority in nearly every game they play in Sprint Center, even against Kansas.
Those who couldn’t wedge into the building, which announced a crowd of 19,066 for the final, packed the Power & Light District across the street for a watch party.
The party continued on the Sprint Center floor after the game. On came the hats and T-shirts, down came the confetti, in walked Iowa State legend Gary Thompson — his Cyclones team handed Wilt Chamberlain his first Kansas loss in 1957 — carrying the championship trophy to the players celebrating atop the platform.
“The atmosphere here is second to none,” said Iowa State forward Michael Jacobson, who opened his career at Nebraska before transferring.
The Cyclones (23-11), seeded fifth, became the worst seed to win the tournament, but the position was a surprise only because of a late-season slump.
Iowa State dropped five of six to end the regular season and the team that once looked like the best in the Big 12 picked the worst time to struggle.
Even Hilton Magic couldn’t help. The Cyclones lost four home Big 12 games this season.
But thankfully for Iowa State, the Big 12 Tournament and Sprint Center arrived to cure what ailed the Cyclones.
“We’re getting back to who we are and what we want to be about,” Iowa State coach Steve Prohm said.
Saturday and throughout the tournament the production came from different sources. If there was a player of the game for each day, guard Talen Horton-Tucker would have won it for the victory over Baylor in the opener, and guard Marial Shayok would have been the winner for his big shots toward the end of the semifinal victory over Kansas State.
Against Kansas, guard Lindell Wigginton was the most active, leading Iowa State with 17 points. Jacobson made plays all over the floor throughout the tournament and stunned the Jayhawks by making his two three-point attempts.
Shayok was voted the tournament’s most outstanding player and was joined on the all-tournament team by Jacobson and Wigginton, along with Kansas’ Dedric Lawson and Devon Dotson.
Next up is the NCAA Tournament. The Cyclones likely are headed to a No. 5 or 6 seed with momentum. If somehow Iowa State gets placed in the Midwest Region and wins a couple of games, the path would continue at Sprint Center, which has become the Cyclones’ home away from home.
“I’ve been coaching for 20 years at different levels, and I’ve never seen anything like it,” Prohm said.