Baylor has had Iowa State’s number in recent years. The Bears entered the Big 12 Tournament quarterfinals with a three-game winning streak in the series, and Cyclones coach Steve Prohm owned fewer victories over Baylor than any other Big 12 basketball team in his four seasons.
But when Iowa State plays, especially shoots, like it did on Thursday at Sprint Center, the opponent doesn’t matter.
The fifth-seeded Cyclones ran away from No. 4 seed Baylor 83-66 and will meet top-seeded Kansas State on Friday at 6 p.m. in a semifinal.
Iowa State and Kansas State split the regular-season series with each winning on the road.
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Iowa State (21-11) leads the Big 12 in scoring and shooting and played to their strengths against the Bears. They hit 52 percent from beyond the arc (13 of 25).
“When you make shots life is a lot better,” Prohm said. “That’s just the reality of it.”
Freshman guard Talen Horton-Tucker set the tone by scoring 16 of his 21 points in the first half. The score was 26-26 with about five minutes remaining before the break when Baylor freshman guard Jared Butler was called for a foul on Lindell Wigginton while shooting a three-pointer. Wigginton hit all three shots to begin a 12-3 run that finished with five straight points from Horton-Tucker.
“Teammates having confidence in me is a big thing as a freshman,” Horton-Tucker said. “Them passing me the ball and having faith in me to knock down those shots is big.”
In the second half, freshman guard Tyrese Haliburton and All-Big 12 guard Marial Shayok came alive.
Haliburton buried three pointers from each corner before the first media timeout, extending the lead to double figures. Haliburton finished with 13, including a three-pointer from about 35 feet as the shot clock was winding down late in the game.
Shayok, the All-Big 12 selection, scored from all over the floor and finished with 18 points. Wigginton had 16.
It had been a difficult end to the regular season for Iowa State, which dropped five of its final six regular-season games after looking like a Big 12 championship contender.
“The last two or three weeks we haven’t played the way we’re capable of playing,” Haliburton said. “We haven’t had fun these past couple of weeks. Today, we jelled.”
The Cyclones held a team meeting before the tournament to iron out any issues and to tune out naysayers.
“We came together and told each other it’s about us,” Haliburton said. “We don’t care what anyone else had to say about us. As long as everyone in his locked in and engaged we’re hard to beat.”
Baylor coach Scott Drew didn’t need to be convinced.
“I think everybody in the league knows that when they’re on, they’re capable of being a Final Four team,” Drew said.
Bears point guard Makai Mason returned to the lineup after missing the final regular-season game because of a nagging toe injury. He had the hot hand early with three three-pointers in the first seven minutes.
But Baylor didn’t have a solution for the Iowa State shooters throughout the game.
Next stop for the Bears (19-13) is the NCAA Tournament. Baylor is projected to be selected as an at-large team for the eighth time in the last 12 years.
The Cyclones have a Big 12 tournament title in mind, and the program knows the path. They’ve won three of the previous five events.