Diew’s heroics not enough against aggressive Baylor team


Daniel Jacobi II

Nyamer Diew cheers as an and-one is called during the game against Baylor in Hilton Coliseum on Feb. 4, 2023.

Christian Royston, Sports Reporter

AMES — Iowa State’s home winning streak was snapped as Baylor powered through to a 76-70 win.

Baylor’s aggressive face-paced offense and suffocating defense proved too much for Iowa State to handle, as Baylor came out of the war of attrition on top. The Cyclones hung close to the Bears through the entire game, but a strong Baylor fourth quarter was enough for a win.

“It’s really hard. I’ve done this a long time and I’ve sat in a lot of these and most of them are determined by who made the most shots,” Iowa State head coach Bill Fennelly said. 

From the jump, it looked as though it would be a gritty game. Baylor was everything Iowa State struggled against. Physical, aggressive in the lane and pressure that spanned the length of the court.

The Cyclones handled things the best they could early on, forcing two turnovers on Baylor’s first two possessions. The first points of the game came from none other than Ashley Joens.

Emily Ryan dove to the floor on a ball that was knocked loose by Baylor, with defenders surrounding her. Ryan pushed the ball into Joens’ gut, and Joens drove to the rim, hitting a layup in a Baylor defender’s face. 

Joens had six of the Cyclones’ first nine points. However, Joens’ efforts weren’t enough to take on Baylor alone.

The Cyclones fell to an early eight-point deficit from nearly 80 percent shooting from Baylor. Early on, it seemed as though every Baylor possession led to points.

Nyamer Diew knocked down a three to bring the game close, and a few strong defensive possessions later, Joens hit a layup to even it up.

As time was winding down in the first quarter, Baylor clung to a small lead. That would change as the Cyclones got possession.

Joens caught her defender trailing behind her and stepped around a Baylor post player to hit another layup. The Cyclones had a one-point lead and Joens was up to 13 points as the second quarter approached.

The second quarter proved quiet for both teams as the defenses started to lock down. Joens was only able to muster a single layup in the second quarter, as the Bears left the half with a 33-31 lead. Baylor’s shots were falling just a little more than Iowa State’s.

“I mean, Ashley Joens went 1-9. So you gonna tell her not to shoot a three?” Fennelly said. “That’s the game. If you took [Diew] out there, we couldn’t hit a three.”

The Cyclones trailed going into the second half and Baylor’s lead grew bigger and bigger. The Cyclones looked allergic to scoring, as shots fell short left and right.

Finally, three minutes into the half, Diew took the court. Her impact was felt immediately.

“I wouldn’t say anything changed. It’s more so my teammates’ support and getting the ball where I wanted it,” Diew said.

The Hilton crowd was quiet up to that point, as there wasn’t much to cheer for. Diew changed that.

Diew drove down the lane and put up a shot through a defender, to pick up the basket and a free throw. Her shot from the free-throw line was good.

Diew’s three-point play put the Cyclones within striking distance of Baylor. As the Bears looked to extend their lead further, Diew quieted them.

Diew caught a defender on her heels and stepped back to put up a shot from beyond the arc. As the shot fell, the crowd rose to its feet.

“We kinda struggled coming out in the third and [Diew] hit some big shots and helped get the energy back and kinda propelled us,” Joens said. 

With the Cyclones within a point, the momentum was in Iowa State’s favor. All of Iowa State’s points early in the third came from Diew.

Shortly after, Diew stopped another Baylor run with a dagger from beyond the arc. The momentum she provided in the third helped the Cyclones surge back to a lead with a minute left.

As time was running out in the third quarter, Diew was sitting at 21 points. With a minute left, the Cyclones desperately clung to a one-point lead. 

Baylor inbounded the ball and immediately Diew went to work on the defensive end of the ball. With less than a minute left, a Baylor player put up a shot into Diew’s waiting hands.

Baylor got the rebound under the net. Diew stood tall and kept another shot out of the net, coming up with the rebound. No other points would be scored as time ticked down, and the Cyclones led 49-48 going into the final quarter of play.

Without Diew on the court, the Cyclones would have struggled to keep up with Baylor. She put up almost every point in the third and finished the game by knocking down three of the team’s five three-pointers. While Diew was 3-4 from beyond the arc, the rest of the team was 2-20.

“It’s a make shot, miss shot game,” Fennelly said. “You take [Diew] out of there, we couldn’t make anything.”

That lead quickly vanished as Baylor’s fast and aggressive offense wore down the Cyclones early on. With five minutes left in the game, the Cyclones trailed by six points.

A three from Donarski late in the game kept the game close. With two minutes left, the Cyclones trailed by four.

Ryan found Diew yet again under the net. However, Baylor was all over her.

Ashley Joens attempts a three during the game against Baylor in Hilton Coliseum on Feb. 4, 2023. (Daniel Jacobi II)

A defender got her hand on the ball and knocked it loose. As Diew fell on the ground trying desperately to get the ball back, the play was whistled dead and Baylor was awarded possession.

With that, the Cyclones’ hopes of pulling out a win were gone. Baylor jumped out to a 6-point lead with a minute left. Not enough time for a comeback.

Diew would finish the game with 25 points. Joens would finish with 23 points and only six assists. Ryan, who has been a key player in Iowa State’s wins, finished the game with just two points, although she had eight rebounds.

The Bears came in with a game plan to take down the Cyclones at home and they followed it to a tee. 

“Emily Ryan is more of a scorer in their wins. We wanted to take away her scoring,” Baylor head coach Nicki Collen said. “Ashley Joens gets three more offensive rebounds in their wins than their losses. We needed to keep her off the boards. And we ultimately did.”

Iowa State’s home winning streak was broken, as another season saw another hard-fought loss to the Bears.

“Disappointed in the outcome,” Fennelly said. “We got beat by a better team.”