Three Big Takeaways: Late surge not enough, Cyclones fall to explosive Kansas offense


Daniel Jacobi II

Ashley Joens attempts a three during the game against TCU in Hilton Coliseum on Feb. 25, 2023.

Christian Royston, Sports Reporter

The Cyclones gave all the effort they could, but in the end, it wasn’t enough to overcome Kansas’ highest-scoring performance of the season as they fell 98-93 Wednesday.

Iowa State fell to an early deficit, with Kansas leading by double-digits for most of the contest. A late push by the Cyclones put the Jayhawks on their heels, but it wasn’t enough to take down Kansas on the road.

A few Cyclones had dominating performances, but Kansas had all the momentum, as Iowa State left empty handed, picking up its seventh loss of the conference season.

Unforgiving rims

Kansas had the home-court advantage early on, as the rims seemed smaller for the Cyclones on every possession.

Iowa State still put up shots despite the early misses, knocking down three of its first eight shots. However, Kansas maintained a large lead after the first quarter after shooting over 70% from beyond the arc.

That trend continued into the second quarter, as the Cyclones struggled to get anything going on offense. On the other hand, Kansas was shooting lights out, knocking down its seventh three with over half the quarter left to play.

Kansas’ Wyvette Mayberry knocked down all six of her shots, including four three-pointers to help the Jayhawks build a 13-point lead early on. Kansas was putting up shots from anywhere and everywhere on the court, and the shots kept falling.

With the Cyclones’ backs against the wall, someone had to step up and hit the much-needed shots. That player was Denae Fritz. 

Fritz was hanging near the top of the Cyclones’ lineup, knocking down a three early on to get the Cyclones’ first points of the game. With time running out in the second quarter, Iowa State was still trailing by nearly double-digits. 

Kansas’ defense had locked down Iowa State all night, but Emily Ryan still found Fritz wide open in the corner. Ryan knew from the moment the ball touched Fritz’s hands that she would hit the shot and was already down the court with her back to the net by the time Fritz’s shot fell through.

One possesion later, Fritz found herself wide open again and knocked down another shot to put the Cyclones within one score just a minute before the half.

Iowa State was starting to catch up in points and three-point percentage. At the half, the Cyclones trailed by just five points.

Sloppy play costs Iowa State momentum

Going into the half, it looked as though the Cyclones had the momentum in their favor. 

They cut a 13-point lead down to just five. All the Cyclones needed to do was continue to heat up on offense and play clean on defense, but things didn’t go as planned.

Several Cyclones picked up fouls throughout the game, as both teams were keeping up with each other at the free-throw line. However, those fouls kept coming.

Ashley Joens and Ryan picked up their third fouls early in the second half while Donarski was sitting at two. On the other side, Kansas’ Chandler Prater had four fouls just minutes into the half.

Ryan’s fourth foul came just minutes after her third, as she was called for a foul in the lane while guarding a drive attempt by Kansas. She could only afford one more foul, and there was still a quarter and a half to play.

The fouls allowed Kansas to run away with the game in the third quarter. Not only were the free throws hitting, but the shots were falling before the Jayhawks even got to the line.

A five-point lead grew to seven, then nine. Soon enough, the Cyclones found themselves down by 13 points yet again.

With Kansas shooting lights out, paired with near-perfect shooting from the charity stripe, the Cyclones struggled to keep up. With just minutes left in the third quarter, the Cyclones found themselves down by 17 points.

Kansas found itself in some foul trouble entering the final quarter too, as three Kansas players had three or more fouls with 10 minutes to go.

Iowa State was putting in work from the free-throw line, but it wasn’t enough to keep up with Kansas’ three-point plays.

To tack onto that, Nyamer Diew found herself one foul away from a premature exit as she picked up a foul at the third-quarter buzzer. The Cyclones had one quarter to play and limited options to deal with Kansas.

One final surge not enough

Iowa State’s hope of a comeback looked to be dashed early into the final quarter as Kansas put together a 7-0 run to build its lead back up to 17 points.

With just half a quarter to play, that lead would be too big for most teams to overcome, but Iowa State isn’t most teams. Iowa State finally broke Kansas’ run to get some momentum in its favor.

Two Cyclones led the way in the fourth quarter, as Joens was showing why she is one of the greatest Big 12 players of all time and Fritz was having a career game herself.

Both Fritz and Joens had over 20 points, with the two combining for over 50 points. In a blink of an eye, Kansas’ 17-point lead dropped to just single-digits. 

Shots were starting to fall, and Iowa State started to lock down Kansas on defense. With two minutes left, Joens knocked down a three to cut the lead to six points.

One possession later, Joens knocked down another three to break the 30-point mark. A Joens rebound on the next possession led to Morgan Kane putting up a contested shot to cut the lead to just three points.

With one minute left to play, the Cyclones just needed to keep rolling and finish strong. Kansas’ Prater put up a tough shot in traffic to build the lead back up to five.

With 40 seconds to play, Joens made a quick drive to the basket to cut the lead again. Iowa State just needed one defensive stop and a three to force the game into overtime.

Ryan came up with a steal on what would have been Kansas’ last possession, but a foul gave the ball back to Kansas. Just when luck looked to be on Iowa State’s side, it was all over.

Iowa State tried to trade fouls for possessions with Kansas, but with Diew and Joens fouling out, the Cyclones couldn’t get points fast enough on offense.

A valiant effort ended in disappointing fashion for the Cyclones, as they couldn’t overcome Kansas’ best performance of the year. In the end, Kansas came out on top 98-93.

Joens finished the game with 33 points and 14 rebounds while Fritz had a career night with 26 points and five rebounds of her own.

With one game left to play, the Cyclones will head back home to take on Texas Tech–one last chance to make a final push into the postseason.