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A snowstorm, a comeback and an upset: Iowa State topples No. 4 Baylor

Tyler Coe
The Iowa State women’s basketball team celebrates after Iowa State defeats Baylor 66-63 at Hilton Coliseum on Jan. 13, 2024.

Even in the midst of a snowstorm and frigid temperatures, Iowa State hosted No. 4 Baylor. Another comeback performance awaited the Cyclones, beating Baylor 66-63.

Once again, turnovers plagued the Cyclones. Hitting the season-high last game against No. 24 West Virginia with 20, Iowa State once again set a new season-high with 21 turnovers.

The issues would be righted with another comeback effort for the Cyclones, taking down Baylor to improve to 5-0 in the Big 12.

A trouble-filled first half

The Cyclones started the game on a high note. A three from Arianna Jackson and a layup from Audi Crooks had the Cyclones in front 5-2 early.

Quickly thereafter, things started to fall apart. It was a defensive struggle in the first four minutes with Iowa State in front 10-5, but it was all Baylor to finish the first quarter.

The Bears finished the opening quarter on a 19-1 run, capped off by a half-court buzzer beater to lead 24-11. Zero field goals from the Cyclones in the final six minutes did not help Iowa State, nor did the turnovers.

A season-high 10 first quarter turnovers was the glaring issue the Cyclones faced. At a turnover per minute, something had to change, and fast, heading into the second quarter.

Trailing by 13 after one, momentum was heavily swinging towards Baylor, but Iowa State started to chip into the lead little by little. Turnovers were managed better in the second quarter, but the number still rose to 14 at halftime.

Another drought hit Iowa State in the second quarter. The Cyclones went the final five minutes without a basket before Crooks made a layup to send the game into halftime.

Crooks battled down low all game, scoring and getting the Cyclones back into the game.

“We haven’t had a powerful, low-post player in a long time,” Iowa State head coach Bill Fennelly said. “If we can get 25 minutes out of her like we did tonight, she’s going to do a lot of good things.”

Crooks had 15 of the Cyclones’ 29 first half points. She would finish as the leading scorer for Iowa State with 23 points and added six rebounds as well.

Second half heroics bring Iowa State to life

Trailing by eight points entering the second half, the game was in reach for the Cyclones. Turnovers would need to be limited and turned into points.

Iowa State managed the turnovers better, committing seven in the second half. That still resulted in 21 total turnovers for the Cyclones, setting a season high.

Freshman Addy Brown was a big part in forcing turnovers against Baylor with a season-high six steals. As a team, Iowa State had nine steals and forced 17 turnovers.

Brown was a point shy of her ninth double-double, scoring nine points and reeling in 11 rebounds. Seven of her points came in the second half.

A big third quarter for seniors Emily Ryan and Hannah Belanger pulled Iowa State closer to Baylor. Ryan was held scoreless in the first half, but scored eight points in the third.

Ryan’s leadership was on display once again. The senior would end the day with nine points and four assists after playing 27 minutes.

One of Ryan’s assists was to Belanger to end the third quarter, cutting the lead to two. Belanger would continue her scoring streak into the fourth quarter with a jumper to tie the game at 54.

“[Ryan] drove, I was open, shot it and luckily the time ran out,” Belanger said. “It was good. It was fun.”

Belanger finished with 15 points, shooting 3-for-4 from the perimeter. Her free throws at the end of the game sealed the deal for the Cyclones as they improved to 5-0 in the Big 12.

Iowa State remains undefeated in conference play

A wild past two games, Iowa State came from 19 points behind against No. 24 West Virginia to win and followed it up with a 13-point comeback after a poor first quarter against Baylor.

“It means a lot to us as a team,” Crooks said. “Coming into this year, everybody being uncertain of what we’re going to do and if we’re going to be able to produce. To do that twice this week in some pretty big games means a lot, and it’s going to give us a foundation to keep building off of.”

Fennelly said Baylor was going to be one of the toughest conference teams Iowa State would play and they showed it. The battles inside and outside on both sides of the ball showed not only how good Baylor is, but how good Iowa State is as well.

“They’re smiling. They’re upbeat,” Fennelly said. “When [Crooks] smiles the whole place explodes. [Brown] has a little edge to her. I just think that that’s what makes this team a little unique.”

The Cyclones have taken down two ranked teams in a row to extend their win streak to eight games which started after the loss to No. 4 Iowa in December.

In a conference as good as the Big 12, wins are hard to come by. The Cyclones will look to keep the undefeated run going against Texas Tech.

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    Russ Twelmeyer | Jan 13, 2024 at 5:05 pm

    Another great article from Brett. Makes you feel as if you were at the game. Keep up the good work.