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Second half shooting curses Cyclones, dropped first home conference game to No. 24 Oklahoma

Audi+Crooks+shoots+at+the+top+of+the+key+at+the+Iowa+State+vs.+Oklahoma+game+in+Hilton+Coliseum%2C+Feb.+10%2C+2024.
Maeley Rosengren
Audi Crooks shoots at the top of the key at the Iowa State vs. Oklahoma game in Hilton Coliseum, Feb. 10, 2024.

After Iowa State’s 71-66 loss to UCF, the Cyclones had the week off to prepare for their next opponent, which was a home clash against No. 24 Oklahoma who was coming off of a seven-game winning streak.

The Sooners looked very intimidating coming into Hilton Coliseum Saturday night, as they had only suffered one conference loss in their 12 games played this season, which came back on January 10 in Manhattan, Kansas, to then-No. 12 Kansas State.

This same intimidation factor led Oklahoma to cruise past Iowa State on Saturday night, as the Sooners gave the Cyclones their first conference loss at home by a score of 86-72.

One of the biggest factors contributing to Iowa State’s first conference loss at home came from its second-half shooting performance. Even with the Cyclones down 49-35 at halftime, they had significantly shot the ball better in the first half (48%) than in the second half, as Iowa State shot a combined 30.6% from the field in the final two quarters.

Another factor that went along with the poor shooting from the field, comes from the team’s performance at the charity stripe. The Cyclones shot 22 free throws in the second half alone, to which they had only made 13. That is nine points held off the scoreboard that could have completely changed the trajectory of this game.

The Sooners had not been known to be one of the stronger defensive units in the Big 12, as they had ranked 13th in the conference in points given up to opponents (67.5) and had ranked seventh in the conference in opposing teams’ field goal percentage (38.4%) despite their recent success.

But in potentially the final game played between these two teams as members of the Big 12 occurred, Oklahoma had not let its known statistics sway its play in the second half, as they held the Cyclones down to 34 points to close out the game.

Iowa State head coach Bill Fennelly said he understands that these missed opportunities cost his team the game in the end, which effectively ended its undefeated season at home during conference play.

“We missed so many layups, we had to have missed four or five in the fourth quarter alone. Plus when you compound it with missing free throws, it gets in your head a little bit,” Fennelly said.

Center Audi Crooks has been known league-wide as one of the best freshman centers in not only the Big 12 but the entire nation, as her play has forced opposing teams to adjust their defensive schemes that open other options up on the floor.

But in Saturday night’s matchup against Oklahoma, Crooks was held to 14 points on the day, eight of which came from the free throw line, as she discussed how the Sooners adjusted to the team’s style of play.

“People are starting to throw anything and everything they can in the post,” Crooks said. “Oklahoma was pretty consistent with the double-team which opened the door for some kickouts that were converted into big shots.”

While it may look like another blowing loss, especially with it being at home, guard Emily Ryan believes the team needs to learn cohesively to fix their recent woes that could help jumpstart Iowa State to another run they had back at the start of conference play.

“I think the big thing for us is just doing it together,” Ryan said. “At this point in the season, if we try to start figuring out things by ourselves, for ourselves, that’s when things start to go south.”

This loss to the Sooners gives the Cyclones a two-game losing streak as they enter yet another free fall with the season’s final stretch readily approaching.

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