KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Kansas State’s Marcus Foster drove hard.
Iowa State’s Dustin Hogue dug in — ball sighted, hands ready, poised to pounce.
“Doing the dirty work,” the 6-6 forward later said, smiling.
Game, set, strip for the Cyclones.
Hogue’s pilfer of Foster with ISU clinging to an 83-80 lead with 1:54 left led to a Naz Long layup in transition.
Thus, the fourth-seeded Cyclones (24-7) survived the “bar fight” they expected with the fourth-seeded Wildcats (20-12), sweeping past the Big 12 Championship quarterfinals Thursday with a 91-85 win played that unfolded before a decidedly pro-ISU crowd at the Sprint Center.
“I love tug of war games,” said Hogue, who scored 19 points, shot 6 of 8 from the field, grabbed 10 rebounds and muscled away two steals. “Because 99 percent of the time I’m definitely going to get them.”
Just ask formerly underrated teammate and Big 12 player of the year Melvin Ejim, who led ISU with 24 points while also grabbing 10 boards.
Ejim’s called Hogue a “monster” in the past — and played like one himself in a game that included 11 ties and eight lead changes.
“We were able to play the same game,” said Ejim, who helped the Cyclones build a commanding 15-to-6 edge on the offensive glass. “We were able to be physical with them.”
Hogue, the latest ISU player considered to be underrated, not to mention under-recruited, hadn’t scored more than 15 points in a game against a conference team.
The junior from Yonkers, N.Y. even unveiled an angle-defying baseline jumper that tied the score 70-70 with 7:06 left.
“I don’t get to showcase it too much,” Hogue said of the shot that Long referred to as a ‘MJ fadeaway.’ “I’ve got to keep some secrets to myself.”
The book is out on the undersized, yet always-in-overdrive Hogue, but it’s been propped open all season to his teammates.
“He’s probably one of the toughest players I’ve played with,” said Cyclones guard DeAndre Kane, who scored 11 points before fouling out with 3:55 left. “Just to be his size at 6-6, 215, 218 (pounds), whatever he is; he plays so strong and with so much heart and energy and effort. That wins games. That wins championships.”
First things first: Today’s 6 p.m. semifinal against top-seeded Kansas, which needed overtime to overcome eighth-seeded Oklahoma State 77-70 in its Thursday quarterfinal.
The Jayhawks beat the Cyclones twice in the regular season.
“The environment’s going to be through the roof,” said Long, who scored 14 points, including the final four of the game against K-State.
“The bright lights. The big stage. It’s going to be huge.”
So was Thursday — for Hogue and all the Cyclones.
ISU forward Georges Niang added 18 points, seven rebounds and four assists as his team advanced to the third day of the tournament for just the second time since 2005.
The 6-7 sophomore handled the ball down the stretch, notching half his assists in the final two minutes.
“To fight through adversity with Kane fouling our and calls not going our way, I just feel like we did a great job, I’m really proud of these guys,” Niang said.
Especially Hogue, who Cyclones Coach Fred Hoiberg deemed a “glue guy.”
In other words, underrated.
“He just went out there and made play after play,” Hoiberg said, “He’s a guy that doesn’t get the credit that he deserves.”