The Iowa State women's basketball team squandered a 17-point halftime lead and fell 81-85 to No. 6 Mississippi State in overtime on Saturday at Hilton Coliseum.
Iowa State looked especially confident in the friendly confines of Hilton for the majority of the game, but MSU stormed back in the 4th quarter and hit a late three to send the game to overtime. Seanna Johnson scored 21 points to lead the Cyclones. Jadda Buckley added 19 points, and Bridget Carleton finished with 17 points.
Iowa State was undefeated heading into the game, but, before today, it was unclear if the Cyclones had fully gotten past a 2015-16 season in which the team did not make the NCAA tournament for the first time in a decade. Despite the loss on Saturday, this year's group of Cyclone women appears ready for a return to the Big Dance.
Iowa State, which built an initial 8-7 lead, stuck with the Bulldogs early in the game. Later in the 1st quarter, using a 7-0 run that was capped off by a steal and a layup by junior guard Emily Durr, the Cyclones surged ahead to lead 15-13. Thanks to some exceptional defense, Iowa State held MSU scoreless for the last five minutes of the 1st quarter.
Heather Bowe, still nursing an ankle injury that resulted from stepping on a basketball in the locker room during the Drake game, was not in action for the Cyclones on Saturday. As a result, Claire Ricketts saw increased minutes.
The Cyclones were absolutely on fire to start the 2nd quarter, and three pointers by Carleton and Durr extended the Iowa State lead to 25-16 with 6:46 to play before the half. The Bulldogs put heavy defensive pressure on the Cyclones throughout the game, but Iowa State managed to score 28 points in the 2nd quarter.
The latter part of the half, Buckley was simply dominant, canning two three pointers and two free throws. When the scoring frenzy finally finished, the Cyclones had a 43-26 advantage heading into the locker room. Buckley finished the half with 17 points.
MSU was holding its opponents to just 19 percent from beyond the arc heading into Saturday, but the Cyclones shot an impressive 67 percent from three-point range.
The Bulldogs scored first in the 3rd quarter, and it looked like the momentum could swing, but Carleton got a strong pass from Buckley that helped the Cyclones maintain their distance. The Bulldogs ran their full-court press with even greater urgency and intensity to start the 3rd, but Iowa State managed to get a bucket whenever it was needed most.
Three straight turnovers in the 3rd helped the Bulldogs go on a 13-5 run, but Meredith Burkhall stopped the bleeding with a nice jumper. Durr continued the Cyclone response on the next possession with a three pointer that gave Iowa State a 53-39 lead. By the end of the 3rd, Mississippi State had clawed back slightly, and the Cyclones held an 11 point lead with 10 minutes to play.
In the 4th quarter, the Bulldogs trimmed the lead to seven points with eight minutes to play, and the Cyclones struggled to get open shots the way they had earlier in the game. A three pointer from Carleton was absolutely vital with 6:44 to play and put the Cyclones ahead 64-53.
It was tense late in the 4th, and the Bulldogs were within five points with two minutes to play. On several consecutive possessions, Iowa State simply could not find a decent shot. With 1:28 to play, Johnson got to the line and made both free throws to put the Cyclones up 70-63.
The Bulldogs were not done, though, and Morgan William sank a three with 34 seconds remaining that left Iowa State with just a 70-68 lead. Johnson went to the line on the next possession and hit 1-2 free throws for the Cyclones, but the Bulldogs stormed down, hit another three, and Buckley couldn't hit a game-winner at the buzzer.
MSU struck first in overtime, and the teams traded baskets before the Bulldogs extended their lead to four points with under three minutes to play in the extra period. A three by Durr with 26 seconds to play brought Iowa State to within 76-79, and Nia Washington hit a bank three with eight seconds left that trimmed the MSU lead to just two points, but the Bulldogs ultimately closed out the game at the free throw line.
The Cyclones won't get much rest. They face New Orleans in Hilton on Sunday at 2:00pm.