Three Big Takeaways: Empty possessions cost Iowa State in close matchup against Kansas State


Daniel Jacobi II

Emily Ryan pushes past former teammate Aubrey Joens during the game against Oklahoma in Hilton Coliseum on Jan. 28, 2023.

Payne Blazevich, Sports Reporter

No. 12 Iowa State suffered a one-point upset loss against Kansas State Wednesday night. The road environment proved too much for the Cyclones as they fell short in the fourth quarter, losing 78-77.

The team was able to generate bursts of offensive excellence at times, but key runs from the Wildcats were too great a challenge to overcome. With the loss, Iowa State’s four-game winning streak was cut short.

In a challenging road environment, Iowa State struggled to slow down Kansas State’s best, costing the Cyclones a win in the final frame. 

A game of runs

Iowa State held the lead for a majority of the matchup, but runs toward the end of each quarter gave Kansas State life.

The Cyclones took the initial lead in a quick series of buckets from the backcourt, and three-point shooting seemed to favor Iowa State. But the Wildcats had the answer, going on a quick 8-2 run to take the lead as the first quarter expired. 

Iowa State was subjected to the same sequence in the next quarter, as the team saw a 10-point lead shrink to just four points to end the first half. Things went off the rails for Iowa State in the third, but the Cyclones were able to battle back, only to lose their two-point lead with 18 seconds to go in the quarter.

By the fourth quarter, Iowa State was in the passenger’s seat. The Wildcats stretched the lead to seven points, their largest of the game, while stalling a desperate Iowa State offense and preventing a late fourth quarter comeback. 

Gregory in her element

In the first matchup this season, Kansas State’s Gabby Gregory – who leads the Big 12 in total points scored – was contained offensively, only putting up nine points in Iowa State’s 67-56 victory. In Manhattan, Gregory’s presence was felt.

She put up 27 points, going 9-14 from the field and knocking down three triples. Gregory was the X factor that the Wildcats were missing in Ames, and when she hit her stride, Iowa State couldn’t find a way to slow her down. 

It was often Gregory who sparked scoring runs for the Wildcats, which helped turn the tide as the game progressed. It also didn’t help Iowa State when guard Lexi Donarski, who was responsible for guarding Gregory, found herself in early foul trouble. 

In fact, the entire Iowa State backcourt faced difficulty with the whistle, limiting the team’s defensive capability. Guards Ashley Joens and Nyamer Diew fouled out in the final minute of the matchup, while Donarski ended with four fouls and Denae Fritz with three. 

Empty possessions

Even when Iowa State succeeded in getting stops on the defensive end, the team couldn’t put together enough consistent scores to come away with the win. Iowa State often found itself giving away possessions and providing Kansas State an opportunity to climb back into the game.

The offense was evenly spread out, with four players reaching double figures. Also, the Cyclones hit eight threes – the same amount as Kansas State – and they outrebounded the Wildcats 35-28. 

But it was the empty possessions, especially late in the fourth quarter, that made the difference in the close game. 

Iowa State turned the ball over 16 times, and Kansas State capitalized by scoring 21 points off those giveaways. The Cyclones forced 13 turnovers but could only score 14 points in response. 

The team also committed some crucial offensive fouls with time ticking away. In a game where each possession mattered, off-ball fouls undercut building offensive rhythm when Iowa State needed it most, eventually costing the Cyclones their chance to prevent the upset.