After a big-time win over the Baylor Lady Bears. the Cyclones had a quick turnaround in the semifinal to take on the Oklahoma Sooners.
In quite a contrast to their quarterfinal win, the Cyclones’ offense came out of the gate slow and sluggish, getting down 4-0 in the first minute. After an Ashley Joens triple, the Cyclones’ struggles continued as the Sooners rallied off 7 straight to take an 11-3 lead. Finally, after about half the quarter gone, the Cyclones would wake up. A trio of 3-pointers from Donarski, Fritz, and Diew got the Cyclones back in it at 12-15, and they’d continue closing the gap from there, getting the deficit down to 1, 18-19, at the whistle.
The Cyclones would continue the shooting, mostly from Nyamer Diew, to take the lead in the 2nd quarter and would extend that lead clear up to 6 at 33-27 after the halfway point of the quarter. The two teams would trade baskets for the majority of the final 3:00 until the break with the Cyclones maintaining a slim 3-point lead at 42-39.
What a wonderful half for the Cyclones after starting out so slow. To continue to shoot their shots and get back into it all the way up to leading by 6 was a testament to this team’s resiliency and grit... but there were still 20 minutes of basketball to be played, and Oklahoma scores with the best of them. It would take a consistent grind to get to Championship Sunday.
And the 3rd quarter that followed was exactly what the doctor ordered.
Over the first five and a half minutes coming out of the break, Iowa State would outscore the Sooners 19-6 and extend their 3-point lead up to as many as 16 after a Lexi Donarski layup with 4:27 to go in the 3rd. From there it was just a matter of maintaining the lead and not letting OU shoot their way back into it.
And of course, OU did just that.
With 4:26 to go in the game, the Sooners closed the lead back down to just 6 following a sweet Madi Williams step-back jumper, The Cyclones still led it 70-64, but the Sooners were red hot and in the midst of an 11-0 run.
Then, just as they had all game long, Ashley Joens and Nyamer Diew stepped up to the plate.
A Joens layup followed by a Namer Diew triple on back-to-back possessions put the lead fully out of reach nearing the 3:30 mark at 75-64. The Cyclones were able to knock down some late free throws as they’ve done all season long, and marched their way through the one half of the Red River Rivalry en route to face the other in the Big 12 Championship Game.
Iowa State. Texas.
Ashley Joens. Rori Harmon.
The Big 12 Title is on the line on Championship Sunday at Municipal Auditorium in Kansas City (1 pm, ESPN2).