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Iowa State dominates No. 19 Oklahoma to reach Big 12 championship

Joseph Dicklin
Audi Crooks pumps her fists to the ground after scoring two against Oklahoma during the Big 12 Tournament on March 11, 2024 in the T-Mobile Center.

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Iowa State entered Monday’s game against No. 19 Oklahoma with a chance at the Big 12 championship game. The Cyclones had their chance at revenge from the regular season loss to the Sooners and they took full advantage of the opportunity to win 85-68.

With big performances from Audi Crooks, Addy Brown and Emily Ryan, Iowa State put the hammer down on the Sooners to win and make the Big 12 championship game. The Cyclones shot 58% from the field and 52% from three to handle Oklahoma.

Crooks once again led scoring with 25 on 12-for-19 shooting, including her second straight game with a 3-pointer. Brown finished with 16 points and shot 4-for-5 from three and Ryan had 12 points with 10 assists to nab a double-double.

Not only did the offense light it up, the defense held strong all game. Oklahoma shot 36.1% from the floor, the worst quarter being the first, where the Sooners shot 21.1%.

“Honestly from top to bottom, everything was better,” Ryan said. “From the way we came out and executed offensively, executed defensively. You can go down the list. For the most part, I think you can say that every single part of the game we played better today.”

The win came in front of a multitude of Cyclone fans. With the new format, many people, including head coach Bill Fennelly, wondered how the fans would travel knowing there was an off day and a weekday game ahead.

“Iowa State fans are so unique, they are so special,” Fennelly said. “I hope that they feel like this is a team that they love to support.”

Out of the gate, Crooks scored the first basket of the game and did not slow down. A 12-0 run broke out for the Cyclones throughout the middle of the first quarter.

Crooks kicked off the run with a deep jumper and later knocked down her lone three from the top of the key. Guard Kelsey Joens and forward Jalynn Bristow followed with threes of their own to finish the run.

With the lead in hand, Iowa State went cold to finish the first quarter. One point was scored for the Cyclones after the run, but they still led 18-11.

“For us, I thought defensively we were really good early,” Fennelly said. “[Oklahoma’s] transition offense is so good, but it’s not as good if they’re taking the ball out of the net. And we shot the ball really, really well and it slowed them down a little bit.”

More shots found their way in for Iowa State both inside and outside. Ryan and Joens each canned a three, while Crooks and center Isnelle Natabou dominated the inside.

The biggest shot of the quarter came from forward Addy Brown. The freshman made two threes in the second quarter, with the second coming right as the clock was at five seconds.

Brown released the three from the top of the key, hand raised. As it found its way through the net, she kept her hand up as the many Cyclone fans erupted throughout the T-Mobile Center.

“Everyone was excited about it,” Ryan said. “Everyone was more excited about it than even [Brown] and she’s the one that actually made the shot. That’s what’s fun about this team. We’re more happy for each other’s success than our own.”

Iowa State went into halftime up 38-24 and outshot Oklahoma 48% to 29% in the first half. The Cyclones went 7-for-14 from deep compared to Oklahoma at 2-for-14.

The first half momentum did not fade. In fact, it grew.

Iowa State stretched the lead to 20 in a matter of minutes. A 9-0 run up to the media timeout had the Cyclones up 49-26, courtesy of shots from Brown and Crooks and free throws from Ryan.

Oklahoma brought out the press late in the third, desperate to mount a comeback. The press did slow the Cyclones a little, but not enough to shorten the gap.

A back-and-forth end to the third quarter still had the Cyclones on top 62-43 with 10 minutes to go. Iowa State began the fourth quarter on a 7-0 run and took its largest lead at 28 points with 4:50 to go.

The growing lead went unnoticed by the Cyclones for a while. They stayed locked in knowing what was within reach.

“The big thing was just staying in the moment,” Ryan said. “Honestly, I was surprised when I looked up and the score was as wide as it was because we were still locked in on the moment.”

The Cyclones continued to pour on the points, shooting lights out in the fourth quarter. Iowa State shot 69% in the fourth to grow the shooting percentage quarter by quarter.

The majority of big scoring runs belonged to the Cyclones, something Fennelly thought that Oklahoma would be able to do.

“The scoring runs that we were worried about really didn’t happen today like it did at our place when we played them,” Fennelly said.

Big shots from six different Iowa State players capped off the win for the team. All nine Cyclones that played scored.

Iowa State has now punched its ticket to its second consecutive Big 12 championship game. The Cyclones did it with a team full of freshmen and took down the No. 1 seed to make it there.

“This team runs deeper than what you see on the court,” Crooks said. “We’re always going to learn and grow from whatever mistakes we make and we persevered throughout the season. We’re here and a lot of people said that we wouldn’t be.”

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