KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — Lindell Wigginton found his way to Iowa State from Canada, Marial Shayok took a detour through the University of Virginia, and Michael Jacobson started his career at the University of Nebraska.
Three players from three very different backgrounds now have something in common: a title.
The trio helped the fifth-seeded Cyclones race to a big early lead against No. 17 Kansas on Saturday, then contributed to enough crucial stops down the stretch, preserving a 78-66 victory over the Jayhawks in the Big 12 Tournament finale at the Sprint Center.
“When you do something special, you win a championship, you got a connection for the rest of your life,” said Cyclones coach Steve Prohm, who brought together his team from far and wide.
Wigginton finished with 17 points, Shayok had 15 on his way to winning tournament MVP, and Jacobson finished with 14 for the Cyclones (23-11), who became the lowest-seeded team ever to win the conference tournament. They also improved to 2-0 against Kansas (25-9) in the finals.
“I think it was our best team win of the year because it was gritty,” said Shayok, who like Jacobson sat out last season after transferring. “Everybody stepped up.”
Dedric Lawson had 18 points and Devon Dotson added 17 for the Jayhawks, whose last chance to win some hardware will be the NCAA Tournament. Their run of 14 consecutive regular-season crowns ended last weekend, and they failed to defend their Big 12 Tournament title.
Meanwhile, the Cyclones made a tremendous about-face during their stay in Kansas City.
They arrived having lost five of their last six regular-season games, and looked rudderless. But beginning with a blowout of Baylor and continuing with a quarterfinal win over regular-season champ Kansas State, the Cyclones found their stride.
“Kansas is a tremendous program,” Prohm said, “and you can talk about Coach Self forever. But our guys answered the bell. We came down here and won each game in different ways. We showed our toughness. We showed our togetherness.”