Barry Brown and D.J. Johnson heard what critics were saying about Kansas State, all those rumors that coach Bruce Weber was on the hot-seat and the Wildcats were an NCAA Tournament long shot.
They provided a defiant answer to all those people Thursday night at the Sprint Center in Kansas City.
Brown had 21 points, including a series of crucial foul shots down the stretch, and Johnson had 13 points and seven rebounds to help the Wildcats upset ninth-ranked Baylor 70-64 in the Big 12 Tournament – clinching not only a spot in the semifinals but likely a berth in the NCAA's field of 68.
"We knew what was on the line. We knew what people were saying," Brown said. "We just stuck together. We played for coach, played for one another."
It was the second time the sixth-seeded Wildcats (20-12) have beaten the Bears (25-7) this season, giving them precisely the kind of marquee victory that the selection committee favors.
They'll get a chance for another against No. 11 West Virginia in Friday night's semifinals.
"We just beat one of the marquee teams in the country," Weber said. "We talked about success is when opportunity meets preparation, that's when you meet success, and we have to be prepared. We have another opportunity. We have to be prepared."
The No. 3 seed Bears got to 64-60 on Al Freeman's 3-pointer with 50 seconds to go, but they were forced to keep sending Brown to the foul line. The sophomore guard, who's been mediocre there all season, made six of eight down the stretch to seal the Wildcats' third straight win.
Freeman had 16 points to lead Baylor. Johnathan Motley and Manu Lecomte had 13 points apiece.
"We knew that anyone could win this because of the parity in the league. It didn't matter where anybody was seeded," Baylor coach Scott Drew said. "They made plays. They earned it."
IOWA STATE 92, OKLAHOMA STATE 83: Monte Morris had the ball in his hands with Iowa State's victory assured, knowing he was only an assist shy of the second triple-double in the history of the Big 12 Tournament.
The senior star held the ball until teammate Naz Mitrou-Long came over and took it so he'd get the turnover instead when the shot clock ran out.
The moment at the conclusion of the No. 23 Cyclone's 92-83 victory over Oklahoma State in the quarterfinals Thursday was evidence of two things: How selfless and mature Morris has become during his career in Ames, and how respected he is by Mitrou-Long and the rest of his teammates.
"People were telling me about the triple-double," said Morris, who had 21 points, 10 rebounds and nine assists, "but you can play for stats or you can play for the win."
Well, the win pushed the Cyclones (21-10) into a semifinal matchup with either No. 1 Kansas or TCU on Friday night.
As for the stats? They had some gaudy ones, too.
Deonte Burton finished with 17 points and 10 rebounds. Mitrou-Long hit three of the Cyclones' 12 3-pointers and had 14 points. Darrell Bowie and Matt Thomas added 13 points apiece.
"They were terrific," first-year Oklahoma State coach Brad Underwood said. "They were the better team."
Sophomore guard Jawun Evans did everything he could to keep the Cowboys (21-11) afloat, pouring in 29 points and handing out four assists. Backcourt mate Jeffrey Carroll added 21 points and Phil Forte had 12, but not even that offensive output was enough to keep pace with the Cyclones.
WEST VIRGINIA 63, TEXAS 53: Jevon Carter scored 21 points, West Virginia cranked up its trademark defense and the No. 11 Mountaineers cruised to a 63-53 victory over Texas in the Big 12 Tournament quarterfinals Friday night.
Playing almost the entire way for a team that regularly goes 12-deep, Carter poured in five 3-pointers and added three rebounds and three assists. And that was almost enough to single-handedly send West Virginia into the semifinals Friday against ninth-ranked Baylor or Kansas State.
The No. 2 seed Mountaineers (25-7) forced the Longhorns (11-22) into 14 turnovers, heled them scoreless for the final 5:34 of the game and turned freshman forward Jarrett Allen into a non-factor on offense as they avenged a loss to Texas in the quarterfinals of the 2014 tournament.
Andrew Jones had 13 points to lead Texas, which matched a school record with its 22nd loss.