KANSAS CITY, Missouri — Kansas State coach Bruce Weber stared at the box score printed on the sheet of paper, a black-and-white rendition of the colorful, back-and-forth game the Wildcats had just finished.
He had a hard time trying to figure out how they had scored 85 points against Iowa State, shot better than 54 percent from the field — and still lost.
"I guess it was an entertaining game," Weber said, finally.
He was right about that.
Melvin Ejim had 24 points and 10 rebounds, Dustin Hogue added 19 points and 10 boards and the No. 16 Cyclones held on for a 91-85 victory in the Big 12 tournament quarterfinals.
Georges Niang added 18 points and Naz Long finished with 14 points for the fourth-seeded Cyclones (24-7), who advanced to play the No. 10 Kansas in Friday's semifinals.
"I mean, we were pretty efficient on offense," Weber said. "We just didn't get enough stops."
Iowa State was clinging to an 87-85 lead with just over a minute left when Ejim missed a layup and the No. 5 seed Wildcats (20-12) got the rebound. They raced the other way, but Shane Southwell lost control of the ball going toward the rim and Iowa State came away with it.
Long was fouled and made both free throws with 16.2 seconds left. Marcus Foster missed a 3 at the other end, and Long scored a layup in transition to put an exclamation mark on the win.
"I had total tunnel vision. I'm thinking, 'Down two, get to the basket or get the foul," Southwell said of his late turnover, the biggest blemish on his otherwise solid game
"If I would have just been a little more patient, it probably would have worked out."
Southwell finished with 19 points, while Foster scored 21 for the Wildcats, who had been holding opponents to a Big 12-best 64.9 points. Freshman guard Nigel Johnson added a career-best 17 points off the bench, and big man Thomas Gipson finished with 13 points.
Iowa State shot poorly in the first half but dominated on the boards, while the Wildcats couldn't seem to miss yet coughed the ball up nine times.
The upshot of it all was that the teams played nearly to a standstill, just as they did in their two regular-season games. They each won at home in the regular season.
Iowa State had a chance to take a comfortable lead into the break, but Southwell scored a fourth-chance bucket with 14 seconds left in the half. Cyclones coach Fred Hoiberg called timeout to set up a play, but DeAndre Kane turned the ball over and Foster hit a 3 before the buzzer.
Instead of leading by double-digits, the Cyclones had to settle for a 44-41 advantage.
They remained one step ahead of the Wildcats until the 12-minute mark, when Thomas made two free throws and Omari Lawrence made another to give Kansas state a 60-59 lead. It was the first time that Kansas State had played from ahead since there was 7:30 left in the first half.
By that point, the game resembled a boxing match.
Every time Kansas State scored, the Cyclones answered the jab. Whenever Iowa State would pull ahead, the Wildcats delivered a blow of their own. And more than once, the officiating crew had to peel bodies off the floor while calming down red-faced coaches on both benches.
"They're a great team," Ejim said, "and play defense really hard."
The fouls had started to pile up by then. Foster picked up his fourth with 11 minutes left, and Kane took a seat on the Iowa State bench with four fouls and 9:57 to play.
Hoiberg was the first one to tempt fate by putting Kane back in with about 6 minutes left, but he was called for an offensive foul with 3:55 remaining. Kane clearly took exception to it, staring down the official who called it while the teams huddled during the under-4 timeout.
The Cyclones still led 76-74 at that point, but slowly crept out to a lead down the stretch, and then made do without Kane during a tense final push by Kansas State. Long scored for an 85-80 lead and, after Gipson scored for the Wildcats, Niang's spinning layup made it 87-82.
Foster hit a 3 to give Kansas State a chance, but the Cyclones held on in the final minute.
"They do such a good job of slowing you down," Hoiberg said. "If you would have told me they were going to score 85, I would have told you they we were going to have trouble winning the game."