Three Big Takeaways: Iowa State pulls out a close win over Oklahoma State


Daniel Jacobi II

Denae Fritz runs into a defender during the game against Oklahoma State in Hilton Coliseum on Jan. 18, 2023.

Payne Blazevich, Sports Reporter

No. 18 Iowa State secured a close 69-64 win over Oklahoma State Wednesday night. The Cyclones trailed at times, but key plays from Iowa State’s leaders helped the team overcome the deficit.

The Cyclones played without head coach Bill Fennelly, who missed the game due to personal reasons. Associate head coach Jodi Steyer filled in, leading Iowa State to an emotional win without its head coach.

Oklahoma State’s physicality pushed the Cyclones, but leadership from Iowa State’s veterans helped the team pull out an important conference win.

The Cyclones win a close one

Both teams entered the matchup with a 3-2 record in the Big 12. It was an even battle for all four quarters before Iowa State found a way to create separation late. 

The teams were trading blows early, but Iowa State kept its composure as it slowly chipped away at the Cowgirls’ early lead.

“Coach Fennelly made a comment about being in the ring and being a fighter and sometimes you’re up against the ropes and you’ve got to hold your ground and fight back,” Steyer said. “We weren’t able to do that at Texas, and we said here we were going to be the aggressors.” 

As the game progressed, Iowa State amped up its pressure and elevated its intensity on both ends of the floor. The increased physicality forced Oklahoma State into foul trouble, opening the door for Iowa State to surge ahead. 

The Cowgirls came back midway through the second half, even taking a brief four-point lead with two minutes to go in the third quarter, but the Cyclones found a way to regain the lead. 

A pair of threes from guards Denae Fritz and Emily Ryan put Iowa State in front as the Cyclones hung on to secure the close win.

“We knew they were gonna take some punches at us, and we were always gonna just keep punching back,” Steyer said.

Backcourt shines

In a physical matchup, Iowa State’s guards found success creating scoring opportunities. The Cyclones were able to drive to the basket and shoot the three-ball against Oklahoma State.

The Iowa State bench gets onto their feet after a three-pointer is made during the game against Oklahoma State in Hilton Coliseum on Jan. 18, 2023. (Daniel Jacobi II)

Ryan led Iowa State in scoring with 14 points. She was able to make plays off the dribble and went 3-3 from behind the arc. She was also key in helping Iowa State maintain its composure and execute its gameplan, assisting the coaching staff with play-calling on the floor.

“Coach Fen’ always talks about doing a little bit more,” Ryan said. “When we lose someone, we gotta step up, and it’s not just one person’s responsibility.”

Guard Ashley Joens also reached double figures with 10 points. She fought through the defense in the paint while also hitting two triples of her own. 

Nyamer Diew, who has been Iowa State’s utility player in recent games, played the role of a guard against Oklahoma State. She followed Ryan with 12 points, including two critical threes. 

“I thought it was a great group effort, stepping up, and everyone’s really locked in on the game plan and just focused on the little things,” Ryan said.

Iowa State bigs keep improving

Because of Oklahoma State’s size, Iowa State had to rely on its lineup of bigs, Morgan Kane and Izzi Zingaro, to produce down low. The pair did just that, as they continue to improve with each game. 

“For them to do what they did tonight and for them to continue to know what role they’ll play, it’s really important,” Steyer said. 

The loss of center Stephanie Soares to a season-ending injury forced Iowa State to change its approach at the position. Kane and Zingaro have become Iowa State’s go-to players against big teams, and with each game, the duo has seen improvement. 

Last season, Kane played an important role in Iowa State’s record 28-win season and Sweet Sixteen berth, but she was Iowa State’s No. 2 option when Soares arrived. Zingaro also saw limited time to start the season. 

But, with the loss of Soares, both players became important components of Iowa State’s gameplan.

Kane scored a season-high 11 points against the Cowgirls, and Zingaro had a pair of critical buckets when she saw the floor. Iowa State has settled on its answer down low, and with a tough Big 12 schedule remaining, continued improvement at the position will be key for the Cyclones. 

“It’s really, really special to see them step up, and whether you think it’s a big statline or whatever, there were huge baskets for us in a game that we needed them,” Steyer said. “That’s the way we have to play the rest of the way, and we play some monsters in the Big 12.”