LAWRENCE, Kan. -- Iowa State never led in its 92-81 loss to No. 6 Kansas on Wednesday at Phog Allen Fieldhouse.
The Cyclones did come ohso close, whittling a deficit of 16 points to one in the first half, then an 11-point hole to three late in the second.
But Phog Allen wouldn't let up long enough for Iowa State to get over the hump and, with four minutes left, the Cyclones unraveled on their own: Two consecutive turnovers off inbounds passes, a questionable intentional foul by Dustin Hogue on Andrew Wiggins near the basket, then a KU put-back, then one more turnover and a breakaway, thanks-for-coming Wiggins dunk.
Hogue's foul led to two free throws for Wiggins, 77-72, and gave the Jayhawks the ball back, 79-72 on a Wiggins tip, and while that may have been when the pendulum swung fully for KU, the Cyclones did nothing in the final three minutes to claw back.
"Looked to me like Dustin was trying to prevent the layup," ISU coach Fred Hoiberg said. "I didn't get the opportunity to see it. … It's a big play. I'm not gonna say anything bad — I thought Dustin was trying to make a good play on the ball."
Said Wiggins, who poured in a career high in points (29) for the second consecutive game: "It hurt, so I thought something was wrong."
ISU sophomore forward Georges Niang was masterful in his rematch with KU center Joel Embiid, creatively scoring 24 points on a variety of looks under and around KU's frontcourt — baby hooks, reverses, off-hand layups.
Niang shot 3-for-7 from distance, a far cry from his nine 0-for-9 outing against KU on Jan. 13. The defense biting on his shot, Niang earned many of his five assists from the top of the key, feigning a shot and instead dropping the ball to Melvin Ejim in the paint.
"He made shots, that's gonna certainly raise your confidence, no doubt about it," Hoiberg said of Niang.
In his final regular season game against Kansas, Ejim scored 18 points and grabbed eight rebounds. Point guard DeAndre Kane filled in 22 on 8-for-14 shooting, including two makes from downtown.
The Cyclones improved their field goal percentage by about 17 points from their loss at Hilton and boosted their three-point percentage by 20, from a dismal 4-for-25 (16 percent) to 10-for-26 (38.5 percent).
"We did everything better here than when we played back home," Niang said. "Tonight, we shot the ball pretty. We got back to playing like we do."
Five players hit a three-pointer for Kansas and Wiggins drilled four to give the team a scorching 45.5 percent, its third-best clip on the season.
KU's acclaimed freshman troika of Wiggins, Embiid and Wayne Selden combined for 45 points while Perry Ellis again feasted inside on the Cyclones, scoring 20."If they're hitting shots like that, guys, it's a tough, tough team to beat," Hoiberg said.
With decibel levels rising to 116, it was all Iowa State could do to keep pace. The moment the Cyclones slipped — and, whew, did they slip in the final minutes — they plummeted into a free fall; a gritty effort spoiled, the advantage morphing four to a final of 11.