KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — Kansas freshman Andrew Wiggins has spent plenty of time talking to his older brother, Wichita State guard Nick Wiggins, about what it’s like to play in the postseason.
You see, the elder Wiggins was part of the Shockers’ Final Four team a year ago.
“He just said, ‘You wouldn’t believe how amazing it is if you are not there to witness it,'” Andrew Wiggins recalled Thursday. “So I just want to be able to feel that feeling with my team, with my coach, and give the fans a great year.”
He’s off to a good start.
Wiggins scored 30 points to lead the No. 10 Jayhawks to a 77-70 victory over Oklahoma State in overtime in the Big 12 tournament. His performance, including the tying jumper near the end of regulation, pushed Kansas into a semifinal matchup Friday night with No. 16 Iowa State.
The Cyclones held on for a 91-85 victory over Kansas State in an earlier quarterfinal.
The second semifinal will feature third-seeded Texas, which romped to a 66-49 victory over West Virginia, against seventh-seeded Baylor, which pulled off a 78-73 upset of Oklahoma.
Wiggins has made it clear since his arrival at Kansas that he was headed for the NBA after this season. He’s made the most of it so far, averaging more points than any freshman in school history and helping the Jayhawks to their 10th consecutive regular-season championship.
“I thought coming in that we needed to try and change him, and change him in a way where he was outwardly, visibly more energetic and passionate,” Kansas coach Bill Self said, “because he’s a stone-face on the court. That would have been the worst thing we could have ever done.
“His demeanor has allowed him not to have highs and not to have lows,” Self explained. “He’s had a few highs, but his lows haven’t been real lows.”
Those highs? Well, that sterling performance against Oklahoma State on Thursday came on the heels of a 41-point outburst in a losing effort at West Virginia last weekend.
“I know that you never know too much, you know? I’m always open to new things,” Wiggins said, trying to explain his hot streak. “Coach teaches me new things every day. Just preparation and practice. Always play hard, run the floor, defend your man.”
Wiggins has done a good job of all those things against the Cyclones. He scored 17 points when they met in Ames in January, and then had 29 points in Lawrence a few weeks later.
He’ll try to make it three impressive performances on Friday night.
“If you can’t get up for this then you’re not ready to play,” said the Cyclones’ Naz Long, one of several players who will guard Wiggins. “These are the games that you’ve got to live for.”
The Cyclones (24-7) will be chasing their school-record eighth win against a Top 25 opponent when they face the Jayhawks (24-8), the defending tournament champ. It would break a tie for the record held with the 2000 team, which won Iowa State’s lone Big 12 tournament title.
“We’ve just got to have confidence,” Cyclones coach Fred Hoiberg said.
If anybody has confidence right now, it might be Baylor, which knocked off TCU in the first round and then held on after blowing most of a 21-point lead in its win over the Sooners.
The Bears (23-10) were on the NCAA tournament bubble not long ago, but have rattled off nine wins in their last 10 games to reach the Big 12 tournament semifinals for the fifth time.
“There’s some stretches we’ve played pretty well the last 10 games,” Baylor coach Scott Drew said. “I know that’s the best we’ve played against Oklahoma. That’s for sure.”
The Bears downplayed the fact that they’ll be playing their third game in three days, even though Drew acknowledged that fatigue started to settle in against the Sooners late in the game.
“I think really, fatigue is one of the things that is going to happen, especially when you play in tournaments like this,” said the Bears’ Rico Gathers. “Nonstop, back-to-back games, it’s going to happen. What it is, we’re a 7-seed. We didn’t get to get a bye. We’re going to have to be mentally tough. That’s when your mental toughness has got to show.”
Texas certainly showed how tough it is against West Virginia, rolling to a 21-4 lead in the opening minutes, pushing the advantage to 20 later in the first half and even eclipsing 30 points in the second half before coasting through the final minutes of an easy win.
The Longhorns (23-9) are in the semifinals for the 12th time in the last 16 tournaments.
“It’s going to be a tough game. They’re kind of similar to us,” said Jonathan Holmes, who had 20 points against West Virginia. “They have bigs, they have depth, they play hard. It’s going to be tough. Whoever rebounds the ball is probably going to have the upper hand.”
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