During a break early in the second half of the
"How much do you have left?"
The answer turned out to be just enough.
After digging a 17-point hole against ninth-ranked
"We got down 17 and they were still talking and positive in the huddle," Hoiberg said later, "and that's a great sign, when your guys can stick together through adversity."
They're getting quite accustomed to it.
It was the fifth straight game — including all three in the tournament — that the Cyclones rallied from a double-digit deficit, prompting Niang to dub his teammates the "Comeback Kids."
"We don't want to come back every time but it just seems to keep happening to us," Niang said. "If that's our emergency button, if that's what we have to do, we'll do it."
Nader finished with 13 points, and Jameel McKay and Monte Morris had 11 each for the Cyclones (25-8), who also knocked off the Jayhawks on their way to winning the title a year ago.
As the final seconds ticked off the clock, the Cyclones streamed onto the floor and chants of "I-S-U" echoed through the Sprint Center, which was evenly split between the red-clad fans from the north and the blue-clad Kansas fans from the west.
"We knew it's a long game, no matter what team you're playing," said the Jayhawks' Wayne Selden Jr., who had a career-high 25 points. "Whether you're up or down, it's a long game."
Frank Mason III also had 13 points for the Jayhawks (26-8), who still had their chances after Nader's two foul shots made it 65-63 with 48 seconds left.
Freshman guard Devonte' Graham went to the basket but was out of control, turning the ball over, and Kansas quickly fouled. Morris made the second of two free throws with 23.8 seconds left.
Kansas still had a chance to tie the game with a three-pointer, but Coach Bill Self opted to drive to the rim. Mason missed a spinning layup, Dustin Hogue gathered in the rebound and Iowa State began to celebrate its second consecutive championship and third overall.
"Coach always talks to us about fighting through adversity, staying together as a team," Nader said. "That's what we did again tonight."
With their athletic director, Jamie Pollard, recovering in the hospital from a heart attack, the Cyclones went on a 12-0 finishing run with a buzzer-beater from Morris to knock off
Their comeback Saturday night may have been the most impressive yet.
After trailing 37-23 at the break and watching Mason hit three straight foul shots to start the second half, Iowa State rallied against one of the Big 12's best defenses. Niang led the way with seven points during a 17-2 run that forced Self to burn several timeouts.
Selden tried to answer the charge, elevating high above the rim and spearing an alley-oop pass from Mason with one hand before slamming it through.
Iowa State kept on coming, though.
With relentless pressure in the half-court, the Cyclones kept forcing the Jayhawks into difficult shots — when they weren't turning them over. Eventually, Iowa State embarked on a 10-0 run capped by Bryce Dejean-Jones's basket for a 57-51 lead with six minutes left.
That's when Kansas mounted a charge of its own, with Selden driving to the rim and getting fouled three times down the stretch. With 1:29 to go, he went to the rim and was fouled by Niang, the ball hanging on the rim for a moment falling. The ensuing free throw made it 63-all.