Takeaways: Seniors, three-point shooting and hustle lift Iowa State over No. 2 Baylor

Iowa State senior guard Jade Thurmon dribbles the ball up the court in its 57-56 upset win against No. 2 Baylor.

Sam Stuve

The Iowa State women’s basketball team made history on Sunday by beating the then second-ranked Baylor Lady Bears 57-56 at Hilton Coliseum.

The win ended Baylor’s 58 Big 12 game winning streak, which began on March 6, 2017. 

While sophomore forward Ashley Joens scored the game-winning point, scored a team-high 18 points en route to reaching 1,000 points for her career, that’s just one of the most important factors that went into Iowa State’s win.

Iowa State made clutch second-half three-pointers, made the necessary hustle plays and had strong performances early on that gave it the win on Sunday. 

Making necessary threes

After scoring only three points in the second quarter and not making a field goal for the entire quarter, the Cyclones needed some big shots to give themselves some momentum.

The Cyclones got that early in the third quarter. They trailed the Lady Bears 30-22 with 9:27 remaining in the third quarter but went on a 13-4 scoring run to take the lead at 35-34 with 4:09 remaining in the quarter.

Iowa State made four shots in this stretch, three of which were three-pointers. Two of them were made by freshman guard Maggie Espenmiller-McGraw, who made only two of her ten shots on Sunday and the other one by senior guard Adriana Camber, who shot 1-3.

In the fourth quarter, the Cyclones found themselves down again, this time 40-35 with 9:19 remaining. 

The Cyclones then went on an 11-4 scoring run to take a 46-44 lead with 7:20 remaining in the fourth quarter. 

Nine of the 11 points scored that the Cyclones on this run came off of three-pointers.

Lastly, two of the biggest shots of the game came on three-pointers. 

Tied at 48 with three minutes left in the game, junior point guard Rae Johnson found herself open for three and made the shot.

However, the Lady Bears took back the lead 52-51 with 1:44 left in the game.

Senior forward Ines Nezerwa, who had made only three out of her 13 three-point attempts all season, then hoisted up a desperation three before the shot clock expired and made it to give the Cyclones a 54-52 lead with 1:10 left. 

These made three-pointers by the Cyclones, put themselves in a position late in the game. 

“We knew they we’re going to be bigger, faster and stronger, so we knew we had to stick together and grind it out,” Joens said.

Kane’s hustle plays

Iowa State’s second-leading scorer, junior center Kristin Scott has been sidelined with a back injury for the last three games. This has led to Nezerwa being the starting center, but she had foul trouble on Sunday, so Morgan Kane had to step in. 

Kane made three huge plays in the fourth quarter.

As mentioned before, Johnson hit a three to give Iowa State a 46-44 lead in the fourth quarter, but that shot would not have been attempted had Kane not grabbed an offensive rebound off of a previous shot seconds earlier.

Then with 5:26 left in the game, Kane stole the ball from Baylor’s Didi Richards and on Iowa State’s next possession, she had the awareness to get a shot off before the shot clock went off, after Joens saved the ball from going out of bounds.

Cyclone seniors set the tone 

With it being senior day on Sunday, Fennelly started the four seniors (along with Joens), Nezerwa, Camber, guards Nia Washington and Jade Thurmon. 

These four played the majority of the first quarter and helped put the Cyclones ahead 19-14 at the end of the first quarter. 

“I told them, you’re going to play at least five minutes (to start the game), we’re not going to sub you out,” Fennelly said. “As a coach your sitting there like ‘this could a first round knockout’ but I thought our seniors played great.”

Their performance in the first quarter set the tone for the rest of the game.

The Cyclones held the Lady Bears to 14 points in the first quarter.

As the game went on, the seniors, minus Nezerwa, played less and less but the attitude they carried in the first quarter on the defensive tone, the rest of the team picked up as they helped hold the Lady Bears to their second-lowest point total of the season, 56.

“Senior day has always been a special day, but I don’t know if there’s been a better one than this,” Fennelly said. “Every coach likes to say it was a team win thing, but that’s usually not true. Usually, your best two players win you the game and the rest stay out of the way, but this is a game where people look at the box score those kids played those amount of minutes and that says a lot about them.”

Big 12 tournament matchup

Iowa State earned the four seed in the Big 12 tournament and face the five-seeded Kansas State Wildcats (15-13, 10-8 Big 12) on Friday at 11 a.m. at Municipal Auditorium in Kansas City, Missouri.