It was a cool December evening in Ames, Iowa, but that made it all the better to gather with 14,000 basketball fans to watch the 4th ranked Hawkeyes and the Iowa State Cyclones do battle in Hilton Coliseum.
Caitlin Clark and the Hawkeyes started out how everyone thought they might. A pair of three pointers and a layup later and the Cyclones immediately found themselves in an 8-3 deficit at the 7:42 mark. Then both teams cooled off, not scoring for nearly three minutes aside from a pair of Audi Crooks free throws, before the Cyclones were able to put together a quick 5-0 run to tie the game up at 10. They’d take their first lead of the game with an Audi Crooks layup with 2:32 to go at 15-13, but the Hawkeyes would not be shut down so easily. An 8-0 run gave the Hawks the 21-15 lead with 17 seconds to go in the quarter, and just as it seemed like the Hawks might run away with it, freshman Jalynn Bristow knocked down a three ball of her own in the final seconds to make it just a 3-point deficit at the end of the quarter.
The second quarter was as good of a quarter as Iowa State could’ve asked for. A defensive masterclass, forcing Clark to go just 1-8 from the floor and holding the Hawkeyes to just 13 points, one of their lowest marks of the season. On the offensive side, the Cyclones did much better than some of their woes earlier in their season. It wasn’t the explosion of points as it maybe was in the past, but it was a consistent attack, including an Audi Crooks three-pointer (her first of the season) sprinkled in. The defensive showcase would conclude the half as neither team scored in the final 94 seconds and the Cyclones would hang in through the first half tied at 34.
The second half was more of the same from the Cyclones’ defense, but the offense just seemed to be sputtering short. Missed layups underneath, not knocking down looks from distance, and way too many costly turnovers left the Cyclones in a hole, albeit a small one, heading to the final quarter, 48-45.
The fourth quarter was unfortunately more of the same for the Cyclones offensively. Couple that with Iowa’s playmaking ability and free throw shooting and it was going to be a tough one to win. Hannah Belanger knocked down a jumper with 4:30 to go in the game, but the Cyclones only managed three free throws after that, going 0-4 with 4 turnovers in the final minutes, coming up short at home, 67-58. It was a tough ending to an otherwise outstanding showing (at least defensively) for the Cyclones, who once again featured all five freshmen.
Audi Crooks led the way with 15 points (10 rebounds), while Addy Brown added 14 (12 rebounds, 5 assists). Arianna Jackson didn’t find the basket too much with just 2 points, but did add 4 assists. Jalynn Bristow added 5 points, but struggled heavily, shooting just 2 of 11 from the floor, but also added 6 assists. Kelsey Joens, the quietest of the five, shot just 1-6 (0-2 from deep) and added 2 points and 4 rebounds.
The Cyclones were impressive at times, despite the loss, and will look to build off of it with three games remaining before Big 12 play begins. They’ll start this last stretch with North Dakota State on December 10th.