As Kansas State and Iowa State went back and forth in one of the most entertaining games of the Big 12 Tournament on Friday at the Sprint Center, it felt like only a monster play would be enough to separate one team from the other.
That’s exactly what happened when Marial Shayok made a fade-away three in the final minute.
For 39 minutes, no one managed to throw a knockout punch. But Shayok delivered a dagger when Iowa State needed him most.
With the shot-clock winding down and 53 seconds left on the clock, the senior guard drained a game-altering shot over K-State defender Mike McGuirl. He gave the Cyclones breathing room, and the large contingent of ISU fans in the building erupted in cheers. They Cyclones went on to win 63-59.
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“Hats off to Iowa State,” K-State coach Bruce Weber said. “I thought Michael Jacobson played his heart out with eight points and 16 rebounds. He played so hard for them. Then, obviously, Shayok with the big three. When we were all struggling making shots, he stepped up and made that big three that turned the game.”
The Cyclones advanced to the tournament final against Kansas on Saturday.
K-State bowed out of the event after two games, unable to add a Big 12 Tournament championship to the trophy it recently claimed for sharing the conference’s regular-season title with Texas Tech.
The Wildcats will now turn their attention to Sunday and the selection show for the NCAA Tournament, where they project to receive something in the neighborhood of a No. 4 seed.
No one can say they didn’t put up a good fight in this event. The Wildcats were without star forward Dean Wade in both of its games, but it was hard to notice at times.
K-State played well enough on Friday to lead 55-50 in the final minutes, but fatigue set in and Shayok took over.
“It all comes down to making shots,” K-State senior Kamau Stokes said. “We had plenty of open shots. In transition we had open threes and didn’t hit them. That could have changed the game ... It’s not shell shocking. They made plays. They got offensive rebounds and they hit shots.”
Shayok led all scorers with 21 points, and he saved his best for last.
Cartier Diarra responded with a team-high 15 points for K-State, while all five Wildcats starters reached double figures. But the Wildcats didn’t get a single point from their bench. And they missed some open three-pointers that could have given them a big enough to prevent Shayok’s heroics.
What they produced simply wasn’t enough to win an entertaining game in front of a rowdy neutral-court crowd.
“It was a great game, great atmosphere,” Iowa State coach Steve Prohm said. “I knew playing Kansas State here and the way our fans travel to the game would be great ... I was most proud of the guys today. We were down five late, flipped the script back in Ames. We were up five or seven late and they came back on us.”
K-State could blame this loss, at least partially, on a bad first half. It went about as poorly as it possibly could have for K-State.
It was all Iowa State after the opening moments. The Wildcats took a 21-14 lead at the 10:07 mark and then had no answers for the Cyclones before halftime.
Iowa State closed the half on a 21-4 run behind and it didn’t even shoot the ball well from three-point range. Talen Horton-Tucker missed all three of his outside shots and the team only went 2 for 9.
The Cyclones did their damage elsewhere, making 12 of 19 shots from two-point range. Shayok led the way with 11 points, but Michael Jacobson was right behind him with eight. Steve Prohm used seven players in the first half, and all of them scored.
Its lack of a scoring punch showed most during the final 10 minutes of the opening half when it missed 12 straight shots and went 8 minutes, 43 seconds without a field goal. Oddly, the Wildcats missed several of those shots from point-blank range. Even Barry Brown, usually a quality finisher, was missing layups.
“We can learn a lesson from this experience,” Diarra said. “We just need to be more locked in from the jump. We gave them a 10-point lead and we are playing catchup the whole second half.”
Still, K-State responded with strong play in the second half and tied the game with 15 minutes remaining in on a three-pointer from Diarra.
They went back and forth from there until Shayok, with both teams feeling like they were going to win the game.
Then Shayok won it for the Cyclones.