KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — Jalen Wilson had 25 points and 10 rebounds, Gradey Dick made a couple of crucial baskets during a second-half run that gave Kansas control, and the third-ranked Jayhawks went on to beat Iowa State 71-58 on Friday night to reach the Big 12 Tournament title game.
Dick finished with 15 points for the top-seeded Jayhawks (27-6), who fell behind early in the second half before the defending champs rallied to reach Saturday night’s title game against seventh-ranked Texas or No. 22 TCU.
The Jayhawks were once again without Hall of Fame coach Bill Self, who is recovering after a hospital trip Wednesday night for what doctors with the University of Kansas Health System would only call “a standard procedure.”
Longtime assistant Norm Roberts, serving as the acting coach, said Self addressed the Jayhawks remotely during breakfast and was “doing a lot better.” It’s still unclear whether he will be available to coach next week, when they begin defense of the NCAA title they won with a stirring comeback win over North Carolina last April.
Jaren Holmes had 16 points to lead the No. 5 seed Cyclones (19-13). Robert Jones finished with 11.
The first half between two teams very familiar with each other was sloppy and disjointed. They combined to commit 20 turnovers, some of them byproduct of tight defense but many entirely unforced.
Wilson got off to a hot start, hitting a trio of 3-pointers among his first four shots. The Cyclones weathered the barrage and were still within 29-25 late in the half, but Wilson’s basket in the closing minute and another turnover that led to a runout dunk by KJ Adams sent the regular-season champs to the locker room with a 33-25 lead.
The Jayhawks’ turnover trouble continued after the break, and Iowa State used a 10-2 run out of the locker room and another spurt moments later to take a 39-38 lead – its first of the game – with just under 15 minutes to go.
Yet the Jayhawks showed again the poise and precision that has made them so good come March.
Wilson answered Iowa State with a couple of free throws, starting the Jayhawks’ own 10-2 run to regain control. Backup big man Ernest Udeh Jr. threw down a thunderous dunk off a nifty assist from Dajuan Harris Jr., who also had 11 points, and the lead unspooled again as Kansas fans began to drown out their Cyclone counterparts.
The Jayhawks were never threatened down the stretch as they clinched their spot in the title game. Wilson became just the fourth Jayhawk to post at least 20 points and 10 rebounds in back-to-back Big 12 Tournament games, joining Marcus Morris (2011), Drew Gooden (2002) and Raef LaFrentz (1997). The double-double was Wilson’s 12th of the season, which leads the Big 12 Conference.
Dick, who hit a pair of 3-pointers, tied Jeff Boschee’s KU freshman record for 3-pointers in a season with 79.
Kansas will play for the fourth time in the last five championship games Saturday night at T-Mobile Center.
Iowa State waits to learn whether a Big 12 quarterfinal win over Baylor clinched its at-large NCAA tourney berth.