Cyclones on a roll heading into NCAA tourney; Hawkeyes in NIT
(Reuters) The Iowa State Cyclones are dancing into the NCAA Tournament as Big 12 champs.
The Iowa Hawkeyes will play in the NIT.
Cyclone Deonte Burton has a knack for getting things started.
Burton scored 14 of his 16 points in the second half as No. 23 Iowa State defeated No. 11 West Virginia 80-74 in the Big 12 tournament final on Saturday in front of 18,972 fans at Sprint Center.
It was the fourth Big 12 tournament championship for Iowa State and the third in four years. West Virginia lost in the title game for the second year in a row.
“He was big for us,” Iowa State coach Steve Prohm said of Burton. “We had him in the middle to make plays and drive some bigger guys. There was one or two or three times he forced it, but for the course of the game he made really good decisions for us. He was really active and physical.”
If Burton is instant offense for the Cyclones, Monte’ Morris is the steady hand that keeps them going. Morris was named the Most Outstanding Player after averaging 17.7 points, 6.3 rebounds and 5.0 assists. But Morris didn’t want the focus on him.
“(Prohm) had so much adversity on his shoulders,” he said. “Everybody was giving him a hard time when we would lose games, but he came to work every day and started to turn things around. I think that’s when the face of the program turned.”
A large majority of those in attendance were clad in red and gold, and it sounded more like the game was played in Iowa State’s Hilton Coliseum rather than a neutral site.
“We call it Hilton South for a reason,” Naz Mitrou-Long said. “It’s a blessing, because we had another home game here tonight, yesterday, and the night before. It’s an advantage when you have the best fan base in the country willing to travel through rain, sleet, snow, doesn’t matter and come out to support us and will us to this win.”
The Cyclones stretched a six-point halftime lead to double digits with two quick 3-pointers early in the second half. Burton scored 10 points in the first 4 1/2 minutes of the second half.
The Hawkeyes (18-14) are joining Syracuse as a No. 1 seed in the 32-team NIT field with California (21-12) and Illinois State (27-6).
First-round play will be held Tuesday and Wednesday at campus sites while second-round action is scheduled for March 16-20. The higher-seeded teams will be the host through the first three rounds.
California will face Cal State Bakersfield, Illinois State will take on UC Irvine and Iowa will match up against South Dakota.
Other first-round games include Belmont at Georgia and Akron at Houston.