- Associated Press - Saturday, March 15, 2014

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) - In late January, when Baylor was in the midst of a five-game losing streak and nothing seemed to be going right, coach Scott Drew marveled at how nobody pointed fingers.

“We stayed united,” he said, “stayed together. We knew what we had to get better at, and credit them for getting better each and every day.”

All that improvement has been plainly evident this week.

Cory Jefferson had 20 points and 13 rebounds, Isaiah Austin dominated in the paint and seventh-seeded Baylor rolled to an 86-69 victory over Texas on Friday night. It was the third win in three days, and sent the Bears into the Big 12 tournament title game for the third time.

Now the trick is to finally win it. They’ll face No. 16 Iowa State on Saturday night.

“Very proud of how the guys competed. Playing three games in three days isn’t easy,” said Drew, who earned his 202nd win to pass Bill Henderson for the most in school history. “This is our third championship game in six years. We’re hoping the third time is the charm.”

Brady Heslip hit six 3-pointers and had 24 points for Baylor (24-10), which has won 10 of its last 11 to climb from a precarious position on the NCAA tournament bubble to firmly in the field.

Austin added 10 points and seven blocks for Baylor, giving him 17 swats for the tournament. That breaks the record of 11, held by Missouri’s Arthur Johnson from the 2003 event.

“Isaiah has just been an anchor, just ridiculous,” Heslip said. “I think that’s transferred over to our offense. When we play better defense, we play better offense.”

Isaiah Taylor led Texas with 16 points and seven assists. Jonathan Holmes was held to just six points on 3-for-12 shooting while dealing with foul trouble much of the night.

“I think they had a really good game offensively and defensively, but it’s nothing we didn’t go against every day in practice,” Holmes said. “Give them credit. We didn’t execute.

“They were tougher than us tonight,” he said.

Baylor is the lowest-seeded team to reach the title game since 2009, when the Bears made it as the ninth seed. They lost to Missouri that year, just as they did two years ago.

The Tigers are no longer part of the conference, of course, off to the SEC. And instead, the Bears will take on the Cyclones, who beat No. 10 Kansas 94-83 earlier in the night. Baylor and Iowa State split their two regular-season meetings, each winning at home.

“We’re going to give it all we got,” Drew said, “see how things turn out.”

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