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Cyclones rally in second half to upset No. 4 Baylor behind Crooks’ performance

Audi+Crooks+battles+down+low+against+Baylor+at+Hilton+Coliseum+on+Jan.+13%2C+2024.
Tyler Coe
Audi Crooks battles down low against Baylor at Hilton Coliseum on Jan. 13, 2024.

AMES — Iowa State defied all the odds once again on Saturday and pulled off its biggest upset of the season as it took down No. 4 Baylor at Hilton Coliseum.

The upset over the Bears now makes it back-to-back wins over ranked teams for the Cyclones this season, as they are now 5-0 in Big 12 conference play, which is tied with No. 12 Kansas State as the only teams undefeated in conference play.

One of the biggest reasons Iowa State pulled away with this win was the performance of center Audi Crooks. Crooks tied a career-high in points with 23 on 10-for-16 shooting from the field, with three free throw makes as well.

The second quarter was the biggest for Crooks, as she led the team with 12 points and five rebounds that helped Iowa State start to claw back from its 13-point deficit entering the quarter.

For Crooks, this is the first time in her young collegiate career that she has had at least 20 points in back-to-back games, both coming against top-25 teams in the country.

But Crooks does not take all the success that comes her way without the teammates that surround her, as she compliments them on this career-tying best performance.

“I would say that my teammates trusting me and getting the ball inside, they know where [the ball] needs to be and when it needs to be,” Crooks said. “It’s really not about me, it’s a collective thing but I am able to score because of who I’m surrounded by.”

Head coach Bill Fennelly praised Crooks for the type of player she has become and noticed how Crooks might be one of the few unique players he has ever coached at Iowa State.

“I think what Audi has done is something that’s unique for us,” Fennelly said. “We haven’t had a powerful low-post player here in a long time, or ever.”

Fennelly also went on to credit Crooks for what she has done well and even went on to what she could be at the end of her playing time with the Cyclones.

“I think the thing with Audi is that she plays hard, wants to be coached hard, loves her teammates and plays with joy that a lot of young people don’t,” Fennelly said. “I would say the impact that she’s making on the court for us is nothing compared to what impact she will make on this university.”

Another player who helped contribute to the Cyclones’ massive upset victory would come from guard Hannah Belanger. Belanger finished the game being the second-highest scorer on the team with 15 as she went 5-for-8 from the field, 3-of-4 from the 3-point arc.

Belanger has helped this young Iowa State team become dangerous with many options that can hit anyone on any given day, as she gave her thoughts on her and the team’s capabilities.

“With this team, you have more than five people that can step up on any given night. More people are heavily guarded or focused in a scout versus other games so today was my opportunity to step up and I did that,” Belanger said.

The future has never shined brighter for Crooks and this young Iowa State team, as they continue to show incredible resolve in the face of the toughest adversity.

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