Iowa State falls to No. 7 Kansas in Big 12 semis

Posted at: 03/15/2013 9:09 PM
By DAVE SKRETTA

(AP) KANSAS CITY, Mo. - Iowa State lined up against Kansas on Friday night intent on settling a score.

After losing two heartbreakers to the Jayhawks during the regular season, both of them in overtime, the Cyclones viewed the Big 12 tournament as the perfect place to get even.

Kansas handled them one more time.

Didn’t even need overtime, either.

Perry Ellis scored a career-high 23 points, Jeff Withey and Elijah Johnson added 14 each, and the seventh-ranked Jayhawks pulled away in the second half for an 88-73 victory.

"Kansas had beaten us twice. We really wanted to win this game," said the Cyclones’ Melvin Ejim, who scored 17 points. "We came out really good. Our emotion was high, and we were riding that a little bit. Then it kind of died off and the game took over."

More accurately, the Jayhawks took over.

"We got off to a great start and hit a wall and had a tough time, especially in the second half," Iowa State coach Fred Hoiberg said. "They scored 15 out of 18 possessions, and again, shoot 69 percent in the second half. You just can’t allow that."

Georges Niang scored 19 points and Tyrus McGee had 12 for the Cyclones (22-11), who may have needed their win over Oklahoma in the Big 12 tournament quarterfinals on Thursday night to slide off the NCAA tournament bubble and safely into the field.

They’ll know for sure whether it was enough on Sunday.

"I’m proud of our guys for the finish we had," Hoiberg said. "It’s unfortunate we didn’t win and get a chance to play for a championship right now, but overall, the last week-and-a-half, I’m happy with where we are."

An emotionally charged atmosphere inside the packed Sprint Center boiled over midway through the first half, when McLemore hit a 3-pointer from the corner in front of the Iowa State bench.

The Jayhawks’ freshman did a little jig down the sideline, and referee John Higgins blew his whistle and gave McLemore a technical foul for taunting. Kansas coach Bill Self took umbrage with the call, roaring for nearly five minutes at the officials before getting his own technical.

"I could have gotten one 10 minutes earlier," Self said. "I didn’t agree with the technical call on Ben at all, and certainly didn’t agree with the explanation. But you know, John called it and I should live with it more than I did. I acted like an idiot, I know."

It managed to wake up the Jayhawks, though.

And it may have been on purpose.

"I felt like coach did that to get us fired up," Johnson said. "I felt like there was a reason to it. He didn’t do it for no reason. It worked."

The Jayhawks slowly pulled ahead late in the first half, and Travis Releford’s 3-pointer in the closing seconds gave Kansas a 35-31 at the break.

The Cyclones, who rely so heavily on the 3-pointer, missed their first six from beyond the arc in the second half, and that allowed the Jayhawks to slowly build on their lead.

"They really got a lot of those 50-50 balls," Ejim said. "We weren’t able to get stops."

Withey scored seven points during a 20-8 surge to start the half, and by the time Naadir Tharpe drove the lane for a bucket and Iowa State coach Fred Hoiberg called timeout, the Cyclones trailed 55-39 _ the biggest deficit for either team in three games this season.

"Toward the end of the game," Ejim said, "we just weren’t able to do those key things that we need to do to win a game like this."

The closest the Cyclones got down the stretch was nine points, and chants of "Rock! Chalk! Jayhawk! K-U!" filled the Sprint Center, where a record crowd of 19,116 had turned out.

"Our goal was to come win the Big 12 title, no matter who we play," Releford said.

Many fans thought the Big 12 tournament would settle the score between Iowa State and Kansas after they waged two nail-biters during the regular season.

In their first meeting at Allen Fieldhouse, Iowa State led most of the way, only to watch McLemore get hot down the stretch. The freshman finished with 33 points, including a banked-in, buzzer-beating 3-pointer that forced overtime in a 97-89 victory.

The return game at Hilton Coliseum last month may have trumped it.

Kansas rallied behind a career-high 39 points from Johnson, including eight in the last 29 seconds of regulation and 12 in overtime, as the Jayhawks emerged with a 108-96 win.

After the game, the Big 12 disciplined two of the game officials for errors that occurred with the game on the line. The league never disclosed the mistakes, but a foul on Kansas was awarded to the wrong player, and a questionable no-call in a charge-block situation _ and the subsequent foul on the Cyclones during a loose ball _ helped the Jayhawks force overtime.

There was no extra time needed this time.

The Jayhawks made sure of it.

(Copyright 2013 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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