Three Big Takeaways: Iowa State sustains its first Big 12 loss after key injury


Jacob Rice

Stephanie Soares drives forward at the ISU vs. West Virginia women’s basketball game. Jan. 4, 2022.

Payne Blazevich, Sports Reporter

No. 11 Iowa State fell short against No. 17 Oklahoma, suffering its first Big 12 loss of the season on Sunday, losing 82-79. An early injury to senior Stephanie Soares hampered the Cyclones from the first quarter.

The Cyclones fought to the final buzzer in the close matchup, going back and forth with Oklahoma as both junior Lexi Donarski and senior Ashley Joens attacked the basket. Iowa State had an opportunity to score down one, but Joens was stuffed at the basket with two seconds remaining.

The Cyclones were forced to foul, and a pair of free throws from Oklahoma’s Taylor Robertson put the Sooners up, 82-79. Junior Nyamer Diew’s final shot fell short, as Iowa State suffered its first conference loss of the season. 

Soares suffers injury

Early in the first quarter, Soares went down holding her left knee. She was helped off the floor, later returning to the bench with her leg wrapped, but she never re-entered the game.

Soares has been a key contributor to Iowa State’s success, averaging over 15 points and 10 rebounds this season. Oklahoma took advantage of her absence, finding success attacking the basket. The Sooners scored 36 points in the paint, as Iowa State found trouble slowing down Oklahoma’s offense. 

Senior Morgan Kane and sophomore Izzi Zingaro filled in for Soares down low. Kane finished with four points in the paint, while Zingaro secured two rebounds. The Cyclones also played small ball, using Diew as the de facto five player.

Without Soares, Iowa State’s focus shifted to scoring from the perimeter, instead of pushing the ball toward the rim. 

Three-point shooting keeps the offense rolling

With Soares’ scoring capability gone, the offense was forced to expand its range. Iowa State has had trouble shooting the three-ball this season, but the Cyclones rediscovered their shooting stroke when it was absolutely necessary. 

Iowa State shot 35.7% from behind the arc, knocking down 10 threes. Joens led the Cyclones with 27 points, including three triples of her own. 

The three-ball helped keep the Cyclones competitive in the matchup, as the offense found trouble consistently pushing the ball down low. When Iowa State transitioned to small ball and began to hit more shots from the perimeter, lanes opened up for guards to attack the basket. 

As time ticked down, key threes from Joens, Donarski, Diew and redshirt freshman Denae Fritz gave Iowa State an opportunity to pull within a score.

Diew steps up

Following Soares’ injury, Iowa State most heavily relied on the small ball approach, using five guards rather than a clear-cut post player. The Cyclones had trouble feeding the post down low, instead relying on the team’s ability to score away from the basket. 

The approach gave Iowa State its best chance to win, as Diew took advantage of the opportunity to fill in for Soares. 

Diew was the third leading scorer for Iowa State, putting up a season-high 14 points. She also played a season-high 27 minutes. The coaching staff relied heavily on Diew’s adaptability, and she delivered. 

Her two triples maintained the offensive rhythm, helping the Cyclones score in critical moments. She was also key in forcing the Sooners into foul trouble, as she was the go-to option down low. Diew was perfect at the free throw line, knocking down all four of her attempts.  

Although Iowa State had to divert its game plan with the loss of Soares, Diew gave the Cyclones their best chance to win.