Joens’ performance helps Iowa State beat down Baylor en route to semifinal berth


Tyler Coe

Ashley Joens looks to score against Baylor in the Big 12 quarterfinals on Mar. 10, 2023.

Payne Blazevich, Sports Reporter

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — After an intense physical battle, guard Ashley Joens helped Iowa State take down sixth-seeded Baylor 74-63 to advance to the Big 12 Championship semifinals.

Each team refused to give an inch during the matchup, yet it was Joens and the rest of the Cyclones who weathered the storm of shoves and elbows for 40 minutes. With the win, Iowa State secured its spot in the Big 12 Championship semifinals against two-seeded Oklahoma.

In a moment when Iowa State needed a spark in the tournament, a 30-point performance from Joens allowed the Cyclones to put away a team that has given Iowa State trouble twice this season.

“When you get into March, you just have to go out there and give it everything you have. If you lose you’re done, so you can’t take anything for granted,” Joens said.

From the opening tip, Iowa State and Baylor traded blows. The series has been competitive during the 2022-23 season, with each team securing a tough road win that came down to the final few minutes.

Friday’s matchup was a continuation of the already-intense series, but the ending didn’t stick to the familiar script. 

Joens was a key piece to Iowa State’s opening gambit. The Big 12 Player of the Year found her shooting touch early, connecting on two triples in the first quarter and putting up 10 points by halftime, despite the constant defensive pressure. 

Joens has been a player who has always thrived in physical matchups, constantly finding herself on the floor when taking the ball to the basket. But against Baylor, it was her three-ball that made the difference.

“They played really tough defense, especially when you got in the lane,” Joens said. “We were able to knock down some big shots which allowed the defense to spread out a little more and allowed us to go on a little bit of a run.” 

Iowa State found consistent offensive success from its backcourt but Baylor responded to every blow. With four minutes to go in the matchup, Iowa State and Baylor were dead even, 63-63.

As the clock ticked down, Iowa State relied on Joens to create some magic in a time when the momentum seemed to be swinging in the other direction. She answered the call, putting together one of her best quarters of the season. 

Joens scored 13 points in the fourth quarter, going 5-5 and knocking down three triples. Two of those shots came under the three-minute mark, putting a highly competitive game out of Baylor’s reach. 

“We wish we could bottle that last 3:59, that’s for sure,” Iowa State head coach Bill Fennelly said. “The staff did a great job [of saying] ‘hey, this is right where you want to be, let’s execute.’” 

Although Joens led the scoring effort, she received help from some other Cyclones when the defense pressured her too much. Guard Emily Ryan and forward Morgan Kane each reached double figures and provided multiple scoring opportunities for Iowa State. 

As the defense began to spread out, guards Lexi Donarski and Denae Fritz found success shooting from behind the arc. The Cyclones knew the matchup would be a challenge heading in, but when a trip to the semifinals hung in the balance, Iowa State relied on its veterans to close out. 

“When you have [Joens and Ryan], you just feel comfortable,” Fennelly said. “I’m not saying we’re gonna win the game, but we’re going to make the right plays.” 

After knocking off Baylor, Iowa State will take on Oklahoma for a chance to reach the Big 12 Championship game at 2:30 p.m. Saturday.