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KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- Amid the screaming hype man during every freaking timeout, Shaquille O'Neal sitting courtside, thumping DJ music and an honest-to-goodness speakeasy underneath T-Mobile Center, the biggest question for Iowa State was obvious.

Forget the bottle service, how do the No. 7 Cyclones bottle the actual basketball that lit up the Big 12 Tournament this week?

That is to be determined, obviously, as we enter into the magical, mystical next three weekends of March Madness. But for one wonderful night, Iowa State's thorough 69-41 clubbing of No. 1 Houston in the Big 12 Tournament championship outshined the club atmosphere that commissioner Brett Yormark so carefully crafted.

As it should be.

Iowa State made Houston look in the defensive mirror and admit the obvious: This is what it's usually like to play the Cougars on a nightly basis. On Saturday, the Cyclones did it better -- much better.

The Houston team that forced Texas Tech into three shot clock violations on Friday was repeatedly frustrated trying to find an efficient shot. The Houston team that forced TCU into 56 misses a couple of days ago shot a season low 26.8%.

"Yesterday felt like a fair fight," Houston coach Kelvin Sampson said of Friday's 23-point win semifinal win over Texas Tech. "Today didn't seem very fair. All kudos to Iowa State's fans."

The huggable Cyclones and their rabid following -- who seem to emerge from the Iowa flatlands each March to enter the tournament's bright lights -- could not be playing, nor shouting, better.

In fact, Iowa State's 28-point victory Saturday night marked the largest for any team over a No. 1-ranked program in the AP Top 25 across the last 55 seasons ... since UCLA beat Houston by 32 in the 1968 Final Four.

"It's a huge high," said Iowa State senior forward Tre King.

Saturday night was, without doubt, one of the high points in the entire history of Iowa State basketball. The Cyclones split two prior meetings beating the Cougars this season, but this was for the conference tournament title against a presumptive No. 1 seed in a venue that morphs in these situations into "Hilton South."

Iowa State's Hilton Coliseum faithful make the trip down I-35 from Ames, Iowa, to Kansas City each March, at least in the mind -- and beer cup -- of every true Cyclone.

"People watch this game on TV, they saw one team they probably felt sorry for," Sampson joked. "But they saw an arena that was lit. And you saw the Big 12 brand."

That brand might include as many as nine teams in the 2024 NCAA Tournament bracket come Selection Sunday. The conference started Saturday with five teams among the top 20 in the NET rankings.

Now, it's time to produce.

Houston will enter the NCAA Tournament at 30-4 having suffered its worst loss since it became necessary to hire Sampson in 2014. That was James Dickey's final game as the Cougars coach that year with Houston losing to Louisville by 29.

The difference is these Cougars still have a chance to win it all if they can get healthy.

Meanwhile, this Iowa State team might be the best since the 2001 bunch that won 25 games but was knocked out in the first round by No. 15 seed Hampton.

The arena din wasn't the only thing that was incessant Saturday. The Cyclones were bigger and more active than the Cougars. That fact exposed what has to be a growing concern for Houston entering the NCAA Tournament.

Iowa State's Keshon Gilbert, a UNLV transfer, posted 16 points and six rebounds on his way to being named Most Outstanding Player. Freshman 3-point bomber Milan Momcilovic scored 18. The program is now 5-0 in the Big 12 Tournament title game with only one such victory coming as the top seed.

Houston is suddenly thin in the post. Sampson rested big J'Wan Roberts -- injured in Friday's game -- during the second half as the result became obvious. Junior Ja'Vier Francis (6-foot-8, 240 pounds) fouled out. Big 12 Player of the Year Jamal Shead was on his way to capturing the MOP honor won by Gilbert until being stymied into a 3-of-17 shooting night.

The No. 1 team nationally in defensive efficiency, according to, was outdone by the No. 2 team in that metric. Iowa State not only played bigger, it played meaner. It was hungrier.

"I have no words," King said. "Before we prepared for this game, we knew it was going to be a battle. We knew it was going to be a hard-fought game. We honestly prepared for the worst. ... For us to knock them out early was a great feeling for us."

It's a huge boost to Iowa State and the Big 12. As we enter mystical and magical time, this game alone reflected the depth and breadth of the league. If Houston earns the No. 1 overall seed, what does that say about Iowa State aside from the Clone'
rockin' and rollin' out of town as a solid No. 2 seed?

"I think [our] ceiling is [beating] the best team in the country," Iowa State guard Tamin Lipsey said. "We just took down Houston."