KANSAS CITY, Mo. - Tyrus McGee did something at Iowa State's walk-through Wednesday morning that coach Fred Hoiberg had never before seen: He shot an air ball.
Two of them, matter of fact.
The senior guard had far less trouble finding his range when the Cyclones played Missouri-Kansas City at night. McGee hit six 3-pointers and finished with 20 points, helping Iowa State survive a game effort by the Kangaroos in a 76-61 victory.
"Tyrus got going. The big thing was finding him in transition," Hoiberg said. "Tyrus shot two air balls in shoot-around this morning. I don't think I've ever seen him shoot an air ball."
Two of them, Tyrus?
"I had two of the things!" McGee said with a smile. "I wanted to have a big game tonight, and it turned out to be pretty good."
Turned out to be important, too.
Chris Babb added 12 points and Korie Lucious and Anthony Booker had 11 each for the Cyclones (9-3), but the Big 12 heavyweights never managed to deliver a knockout blow to the school from the Summit League until the closing minutes.
"You can't miss point-blank shots," said Kansas City coach Matt Brown, who counted at least four of them late in the second half that could have made a difference. "You can't do that and expect to have a chance against a team like Iowa State."
Estan Tyler matched a career-high with 17 points for the 'Roos, and had a basket with just over 16 minutes left that gave them a 39-35 lead over the stunned Cyclones.
That's when Iowa State finally started to get some transition baskets going, and the result was a 14-0 run that spanned the next 5 minutes and allowed the Cyclones to seize control.
They managed to hold off the undersized but game Kangaroos in the closing minutes thanks to McGee, who suddenly got hot from the perimeter. He made just one 3-pointer in the first half, but poured in five more in the final 12 minutes to help seal the victory.
"No way it should have been that close," McGee said. "We had to go out there and fight."
Nate Rogers had 13 points for UMKC, which shot 45.8 percent from the field and was 10 of 19 from beyond the arc. Thomas Staton finished with 12 points and Nelson Kirksey had 11.
It was the first visit by a school from a BCS conference to old Municipal Auditorium since Dec. 30, 2003, when UMKC upset Kansas State 93-52. And it was the first meeting between the two schools since a 121-82 victory by the Cyclones on Dec. 5, 1979, in Ames, Iowa.
The Cyclones got off to a slow start, missing five of their first six shots and turning the ball over four times in the opening minutes. That allowed the 'Roos to open an 8-2 and quiet a pro-Iowa State crowd that had made the trip south on Interstate 35.
Iowa State finally got into a rhythm midway through the first half behind Booker, who was 4 for 4 from the field and scored all nine of his first-half points during a 19-5 run.
Brown called a timeout after McGee's 3-pointer gave Iowa State a 21-13 lead and it served to settle down the Kangaroos. Kirksey buried a 3 out of the timeout, and the 'Roos slowly cut into the Cyclones' lead in the closing minutes of the half.
Fred Chatmon's only basket of the half got UMKC within 30-29 at the break.
The 'Roos kept the pressure on the Cyclones early in the second half, taking the lead on a basket by Kirksey in the opening minute. They managed to hang onto the advantage until the Cyclones finally clamped down on defense, forcing turnovers and turning them into run-outs.
Iowa State pushed the lead to 10 with about 11 minutes remaining, and after UMKC trimmed it to 60-54 with 6:12 remaining, the Cyclones slowly pulled away.
"Just energy, effort and intensity. We got out and denied some passes and that led to some transition," Hoiberg said. "You can't allow a team to hang around, especially when they're playing in their home arena."