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Iowa State Daily

Crooks sets freshman record, defense dominates in Iowa State’s meaningful win against BYU

Katarina Kotek
Audi Crooks shooting the basketball vs. BYU in Hilton Coliseum on Feb. 24, 2024.

AMES — In Iowa State’s matchup against BYU on Saturday night, the Cyclones entered the game playing for a bigger purpose rather than just what they had been used to.

On Saturday night, Iowa State commemorated its game versus the Cougars toward the “Play4Kay” cause, which honored the fight that women put up against the many different types of cancer.

Fans wore pink to show their support for this cause, while the Cyclones embedded the color pink into their normal white home uniforms to show that they were also playing for something bigger than themselves.

Iowa State welcomed a group of women who had previously fought and beaten cancer in front of the packed Hilton Coliseum crowd before the game and included them as part of the Cyclones starting lineup introductions.

Iowa State guard Hannah Belanger knew her team had to play for something bigger than themselves Saturday night, as she helped ready the Cyclones to fight for a cause.

“Coach [Fennelly] made it very clear that these women have to fight a lot harder than we do every single day for multiple years, while we only have to compete for 40 minutes,” Belanger said. “We knew we needed to come out ready and show that while you guys have to fight every day, we’re gonna fight for you tonight.”

Needless to say, Iowa State ended up showing its full support for the cause as it went on to throttle BYU 74-49.

The night was highlighted by the Cyclones’ center Audi Crooks’ big achievement. The Iowa native surpassed Iowa State great Megan Taylor for the all-time single-season points scored by a freshman, as Crooks made a contested layup with 2:23 left in the first quarter to set the new record of 462.

Crooks finished the night with 18 points on 8-of-12 shooting, showing her appreciation to those who helped her get to where she is today.

“It’s a huge honor,” Crooks said. “Coming into this year, I didn’t really know what to expect with making that transition, but I’m very grateful to be playing with the people that I’ve been playing with along with the staff and everybody here.”

Crooks knew that the work to get where she got to Saturday night would not be easy, especially with the uncertainty of where she was to start the year. But now, putting her name atop the list of the great Iowa State players in their first seasons means the most to the superstar center.

“It’s taken a lot of hard work to get to where I am today and it means a lot knowing that my name is now etched alongside the great players that came before me means the world to me,” Crooks said.

Iowa State head coach Bill Fennelly showed his appreciation toward Crooks’ astounding freshman campaign, and believes that the future only grows brighter following the record she set Saturday night.

“It’s a great accomplishment but if the greatest thing that [Audi Crooks] will do in her career at Iowa State is hold the freshman scoring record, that’s on her and me,” Fennelly said. “This should be the starting point and I have no doubt that’ll be the case.”

Along with Crooks’ record-setting performance Saturday, the Cyclones also made the Cougars’ offense difficult as they held BYU to 49 points on the night.

This was the first time Iowa State has held a team to under 50 points in a game this season, while also making it the first time the Cougars have been held to under 50 points in a game this season.

While BYU forward Lauren Gustin and guard Amari Whiting reached 15+ point performances Saturday night, the Cyclones did not allow another player to reach above five points.

Fennelly credited his team’s defensive masterclass to his scout team, as they had properly prepared Iowa State to play a high-scoring BYU team for the second time this season.

“I think the biggest thing today was that it was probably as good as we’ve done in regards to our scouting report defense,” Fennelly said. “If you said there were four things on our scouting report, both offensively and defensively, I’d say that the four defensive things we did.”

A big reason that contributed to the Cyclones’ defensive performance came from their guard play, as guards Emily Ryan, Belanger and Arianna Jackson all played big parts in Iowa State’s win.

Ryan led the team in scoring with 22 points on 8-of-14 shooting, which also set a new season high for the point guard who had previously dealt with an injury that caused her to sit out the start of the season.

Belanger contributed with 17 points of her own on 7-of-12 shooting, 3-of-7 from 3-point range, as she continues to be a big part of Iowa State’s thriving offense.

While Jackson did not contribute double-digit points like Ryan and Belanger, she continued to showcase her abilities on the defensive side of the ball as she led the team with two steals while holding the Cougars’ guards down.

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