At some hard-to-pinpoint time in the second half, it became less of a basketball game for Iowa State — and, specifically, DeAndre Kane — and more of a coronation.
It wasn't the Cyclones' first big win of the season. Or their second or third. But 87-72 over No. 7 Baylor on Tuesday at Hilton was different, the first time Iowa State took a ranked opponent over its knee and, with ultimate power, snapped it in half.
The Bears hung tough for three quarters of the game even while Kane, the Cyclones' senior point guard and reigning Big 12 Player of the Week, took whatever desired. Yet by the end of it Iowa State still had a 15-point win, nearly three times the spread.
The resounding message, circulating through the Twittersphere: These Cyclones are good enough to beat anybody.
"Iowa State to me is a team that can win the national championship," said Baylor coach Scott Drew, whose team has beat Kentucky and lost to Syracuse.
No. 9 Iowa State (14-0) sets the school record for consecutive wins in a season.
Kane scored 30 points, tallied nine assists and pulled down eight rebounds — just another triple-double watch for the fifth-year transfer from Marshall — and, in doing so, erased concerns the Cyclones couldn't get theirs against a tall frontcourt.
"It's probably up there at the top," Kane, who has a career high of 40 points, said when asked where the night ranked for him in his collegiate annals.
Whether it was via layup or finger-roll, put-back or three-pointer, Kane was nearly unstoppable in his best game as a Cyclone, thrusting himself into the early conversation for national player of the year.
"He's a mismatch nightmare out there," ISU coach Fred Hoiberg said. "Strong as an ox and he's experienced, a smart player. When he gets the ball down there, if we're spaced right, somebody's gonna get an open shot. Or if they don't double team him, he's gonna get a shot."
Kane's touch from distance surprised the Bears, who studied the scouting book accordingly — Kane last season shot 24.8 percent from behind the arc — and were thus burned by it.
Taking advantage of open space against Baylor's zone defense, Kane drilled two of four three-pointers.
"Tonight he shot the ball well which helped him out more," Baylor guard Gary Franklin said.
When asked if anything surprised him about experiencing Kane in person, Franklin said, "Yeah, he knocked down three-point shots."
The back-to-back conference player of the week, Kane still exceeded Drew's expectations.
"When you see him in person ... he affects the game in a variety of ways," Drew said. "Coming in I heard he was good but he far surpassed."
Of Iowa State's 19 steals, Kane had five.
"As active as our hands have been all season," Hoiberg said.
In turn, the Cyclones (15 fast break points) were frequently in transition, stuffing home alley-oop lobs with veracity and finishing contact layups, bringing the 14,383 fans in attendance to their feet seemingly every other series.
Witness: Ejim (18 points) converted an oop from Kane with force, igniting the crowd and then stirring it up thanks to a technical foul for swinging on the rim, to extend Iowa State's lead to 52-45 with 15:28 left.
Hilton humming, Naz Long drilled a corner three-pointer a minute later (55-48) and then Kane again found Ejim on the break for a tricky layup (57-48).
Kane swooped under Baylor's 7-footer Isaiah Austin for a finger-roll on the next series (59-51) and, after a few defensive stops, the Cyclones were on their way, pushing the lead to a 21-point margin.
Hoiberg downplayed championship talk in his postgame presser — "We have Oklahoma on Saturday," he said — but after a performance like Tuesday's, it won't do much good.