WVU Looks to Bring Home First Big 12 Conference Tournament Troph - WVU Football, WVU Basketball, News - Mountaineer Sports

WVU Looks to Bring Home First Big 12 Conference Tournament Trophy

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The WVU bench watches the final Kansas State possession as the Mountaineers beat the Wildcats 51-50 in the Big 12 semifinal. (PHOTO: Geoff Coyle) The WVU bench watches the final Kansas State possession as the Mountaineers beat the Wildcats 51-50 in the Big 12 semifinal. (PHOTO: Geoff Coyle)

Bob Huggins and the Mountaineers are headed to the final of the Phillips 66 Big 12 Men’s Basketball Championship where they will meet No. 4 Iowa State tonight at 6 p.m.

This marks the second straight appearance in the title game for West Virginia. It fell 81-71 to Kansas last year behind 31 points from Devin Williams. The Cyclones are no stranger to the title game either. This is the third time in four years they have reached the title game, winning it all in 2014 and 2015.

WVU won both regular season match ups. In the first meeting in January, it was an 85-72 win in Ames, Iowa, powered by a career-high 23 points from Nathan Adrian. Tarik Phillip came off the bench and contributed 15 points, and Esa Ahmad added 14.

Daxter Miles matched Adrian’s 23-point performance in the 87-76 win over ISU in the regular-season finale at the WVU Coliseum.

In the most recent contest, four Cyclones tallied double figures. Naz Mitrou-Long paced his team with 22 points, Monte Morris and Deonte Burton both had 17, and Matt Thomas contributed 16 points.

The game saw seven ties and 10 lead changes in the first half due to 12 triples from the Cyclones, but the shooting cooled off in the second half as they made only two of eight from behind the arc.

“They started out at our place and made every shot,” Coach Huggins recalled of the last meeting. “Like we do, we just kept trying to bother them and try to make things hard for them, but they've put so many guys on the floor.”

Last night, ISU held control in the 84-63 win over TCU. The Cyclones shot 56 percent. Burton scored a game-high 22 points, 13 of those coming in the first half.

“I thought defensively in the first half we were very good. You look at the numbers, we outrebounded them. We shot more free throws and held them to 39% shooting. That was great for us, a big part of our plan, ball screen defense. Deonte got us going the first half, but all the guys chipped in,” said Iowa State Head Coach Steve Prohm after the TCU win. “I thought this was our most complete from 1 to 8 or 9 tonight when you look at our stat sheet. Great win. We beat a very good team, and now we have to get ready for a great opportunity tomorrow against one of two really good teams.”

It was a different story for the Mountaineers in the second semifinal contest of the night. WVU managed to erase a double-digit deficit and finish with a 51-50 edge over No. 6 seed Kansas State. Offense lacked as WVU only made 16 of 60 shots from the field.

Esa Ahmad, who returned to the starting line up after coming off the bench in the quarterfinal, had a team-high 15 points.

“They make so many shots and score so many points. We're going to have to score more than 51 tomorrow,” Coach Huggins added. “Probably.”

Iowa State already has a huge advantage entering the contest: the crowd.

 “Honestly, we have the best fans in the country, and they travel well. So it definitely feels like a home game to us,” said ISU’s Monte Morris.

Ames, Iowa is 230 miles from Kansas City, Missouri compared to the 860 miles from Morgantown. And as proved yesterday in the semifinals, Cyclone fans have taken full advantage of the proximity.

West Virginia is looking to match what its women’s basketball team was able to do in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, last week – win the conference championship. A win tonight would be WVU’s first conference championship since it won the Big East title back in 2010.

No. 2 seed West Virginia vs. No. 4 seed Iowa State in the Phillips Big 12 Men’s Basketball Championship tonight at 6 p.m.

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