KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Kansas basketball will enter the NCAA Tournament on the heels of a clunker.
The No. 17-ranked and No. 3-seeded Jayhawks fell 78-66 in the Big 12 Tournament championship game to No. 5-seeded Iowa State, which became the lowest-seeded team to ever win the event. Lindell Wigginton’s 17 points paced four Cyclone players in double-figures, while KU couldn’t throw the ball in the ocean for much of the contest — the Jayhawks finished 3 for 18 from 3-point range.
The Jayhawks (25-9) trailed by 10 at the intermission, and all things considered, perhaps they should’ve felt fortunate to even be in that position.
KU, which shot 27.8 percent overall in the period, made just 8 of 16 layup attempts, missed all nine tries from 3-point range and converted just 2 of 8 attempts from the free-throw line. Dedric Lawson, who entered the game averaging a team-best 19.2 points, hit just 2 of 11 shot attempts, all inside the arc.
Devon Dotson’s layup through contact locked the game at 21-all with 6:34 left in the opening half, but it proved to be the last made field goal attempt for the Jayhawks in the period.
Dotson picked up his second foul a little over a minute later and went to the bench, and the Cyclones (23-11) finished the period on an 11-1 run to take a 32-22 advantage into the locker room despite its own 3-for-11 effort from 3 and 3-for-7 showing from the free-throw line across the first 20 minutes.
Dotson’s driving layup on KU’s first possession of the second half cut the deficit to eight, but the single-digit margin didn’t last long — Tyrese Haliburton hit an NBA-range 3 on the following possession, kick-starting a 9-0 run capped with a Michael Jacobson jumper that made the Cyclone advantage 17 with 17:13 left.
KU cut the deficit back to 10, 45-35, with Dotson scoring a pair of driving layups to cap an 11-4 stretch for the Jayhawks, but the Cyclones had no trouble answering — Jacobson drained a 3-pointer and followed with a basket interference-aided layup, and Marial Shayok’s jumper re-established a 17-point lead, 52-35, with 12:33 remaining.
Dotson stopped the bleeding with a corner 3-pointer at the 11:15 mark — the Jayhawks’ first trey in 12 attempts — and KU again cut the deficit to 10 on the strength of a quick 7-0 run. But another deep Haliburton trey, this time just inches in front of the Cyclone bench, squashed the mini-rally and electrified the red-packed Sprint Center.
While the ISU offense continued clicking, the KU shooters got red-hot. Dotson’s trey was the start of a 7-of-7 shooting stretch for the Jayhawks, a run Lawson capped with back-to-back layups to make the deficit 60-51 and force a Cyclone timeout with 7:06 remaining. Again, though, ISU pushed back — after converting a pair of free throws, Nick Weiler-Babb hit a triple to make the lead 65-51 with 6:13 to play.
The teams continued to trade blows — Ochai Agbaji finished a layup after an offensive rebound; Wigginton hit three free-throw attempts after he was fouled by Dotson on a 3-point attempt — until it came time for KU’s last gasp. The Jayhawks reeled off a 6-0 run, finished off with a Lawson tip-in with 3-minutes left, to cut the deficit to 70-61 at the 3-minute mark. But it was again Weiler-Babb with a point-blank make to answer, and after a Lawson layup, Garrett committed a turnover with 1:41 left.
Quentin Grimes fouled out with 1:20 left, and Lawson slammed the ball to the court in frustration, resulting in a technical foul. The Cyclones converted all four ensuing free-throw attempts to secure a 13-point lead, and all that remained from there were the streamers and the presentation of ISU’s fourth Big 12 Tournament championship trophy secured over the last six years.
Lawson finished with 18 points to lead KU but needed an 8-for-21 shooting performance to get there. Garrett had a team-high 15 rebounds but, again, finished 2 for 12 from the floor. Dotson’s 17 points on 7-for-13 shooting stood as the most efficient performance for the Jayhawks, who got 10 from Grimes to round out the double-figure scorers on an evening where KU shot 39.4 percent from the floor.