Three Big Takeaways: Iowa State cuts West Virginia comeback short


Jacob Rice/Iowa State Daily

Iowa State senior Ashley Joens drives to the basket during the Cyclones’ 66-60 win over West Virginia in the first round of the Big 12 Women’s Basketball Championship on March 11 in Kansas City, Mo.

Andrew Harrington

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — The physical style of play of West Virginia women’s basketball helped the team mount a comeback, but Iowa State ultimately cut it short, winning 66-60 on Friday at the Big 12 Tournament.

The win moves the Cyclones to the semifinals of the tournament as they await the winner of Thursday’s night-cap between Texas and Kansas State.

Physicality tells the story

The physicality that teams such as Baylor and Texas utilize caused Iowa State to struggle against these teams in the regular season, and West Virginia plays a very similar style.

The Cyclones were able to earn comfortable victories in their first two meetings against West Virginia, but the third matchup proved to be difficult for them.

The Mountaineers were doubling the Cyclones at the top of the key and putting a lot of pressure on the ball early, forcing seven different Iowa State players to turn the ball over in the first quarter.

West Virginia would not let up on the relentless pressure, forcing 18 Iowa State turnovers, who average 12.7 a game coming into Friday.

While this game was tough to overcome for Head Coach Bill Fennelly and the Cyclones, it is something that they will need to overcome many times down the road in order to make a run.

Whether the Cyclones wind up going against Texas or Kansas State, the game could wind up becoming very physical.

Halt the comeback

After building a 41-28 lead at the half, the Cyclones knocked down some shots early in the third quarter and threatened to pull away with the game.

But West Virginia’s Ja’Naiya Quinerly and Esmery Martinez began to bring the Mountaineers back into the game — combining for 17 second half points and 33 in total.

Gasping for air after not coming out for the entire game, Emily Ryan, Ashley Joens and Lexi Donarski needed one last surge to secure a win. This surge would come from Ryan as she scored six fourth quarter points to finish the game.

Each of these players average at least 36 minutes per game, and this is exactly the type of moment that Fennelly has been working his players up to in terms of conditioning all season.

“They can sleep in a couple weeks,” Fennelly said. “They’re not coming out of the game.”

He also said to expect to see the same type of minutes from these three players from this point forward.

Threes stop falling

Without a barrage of first half three pointers, the Cyclones could have found themselves in a different situation at the end of the game.

The first half showcased the Cyclones’ ability to shoot from deep as they were able to shoot 9-17 and West Virginia shot just 1-12.

Iowa State would struggle to replicate this in the second half, knocking down just a pair on 15 attempts. The lone bright spot was two second half threes from Nyamer Diew that kept the Cyclones afloat.

Iowa State has lived and died by the three-pointer for much of the season, and a tough second half nearly caused the team do die by it.