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Big 12 update: Stephanie Soares could lift No. 8 Iowa State to new heights

Stephanie Soares’ adjustment to NCAA Division I basketball has gone smoothly and the Iowa State Cyclones are benefitting.

Syndication: The Ames Tribune
Stephanie Soares (left) is a two-time NAIA Division I Player of the Year.
Nirmalendu Majumdar/Ames Tribune / USA TODAY NETWORK

Checking in on the teams in the Big 12:

No. 8 Iowa State Cyclones (6-1, 0-0 Big 12)

The Cyclones blew a 17-point lead against now-No. 6 UNC this past Sunday. That remains the only blemish on their resume, but, as was mentioned in our last Big 12 update, they also only beat Northern Iowa by three.

In the four games since our last update, Emily Ryan has recorded nine, eight, 10 and seven assists, respectively. She is sixth in the nation with 7.1 per game; last year she finished third with 7.1. Ashley Joens had uncharacteristically low-scoring performances of eight and 11, but the 11 came in just 23 minutes in a blowout of SIUE. She also dropped 33 on Columbia and 18 on UNC. Stephanie Soares had scoring outputs of 15, 23, 19 and 11 and drew high praise from Rebecca Lobo.

If Soares can keep up her high level of play, Iowa State will be very dangerous. As an elite center, she is the piece the team has been missing in Joens’ time with the program. Kristin Scott was good, but didn’t have the upside Soares has. The Cyclones are going to need Soares’ contributions to get past the Sweet Sixteen for the first time since 2009. Her story is an inspiring one, seeing as this is her first season in the NCAA’s Division I after spending time in the NAIA.

Joens and Soares are second and fourth in scoring and third and fourth in rebounding in the conference, respectivley, and Soares is first in blocks per game with 3.1. Ryan and Joens are second and third in free throw percentage. The Cyclones lead the league in rebounding margin (12.9).

No. 21 Baylor Bears (5-2, 0-0 Big 12)

In our last update, we mentioned that Baylor had endured a three-point scare against SMU and had a big challenge coming up in the form of facing then-No. 19 Maryland. Well, the Bears lost to Maryland, but it was only by five and it was without star Missouri transfer Aijha Blackwell, who was out with a lower leg injury and still hasn’t returned to the court. The Bears then suffered their second loss of the season against another ranked team in now-No. 17 Michigan. That was by nine points. Maryland is currently No. 20, but will likely be moving up after defeating No. 7 Notre Dame Thursday night. So neither is a bad loss. The Bears also picked up their first ranked win, defeating now-No. 25 Villanova 75-70 this past Saturday. Caitlin Bickle’s 18-point, 12-rebound double-double led the way in that one. Jaden Owens is second in the conference with 6.4 assists per game. On a concerning note, Baylor’s free throw percentage (62.6) is second-to-last in the league.

No. 22 Texas Longhorns (3-4, 0-0 Big 12)

Where we left off, Texas was No. 3 in the nation and had just lost to then-No. 5 UConn so we knew it would fall a little. But the Longhorns have fallen more than a little because after our Nov. 18 update they lost on the 19th and 20th to extend their losing streak to three games. The losses came to now-No. 24 Marquette and now-No. 18 Louisville. To add insult to injury they lost Friday night to a South Florida team that is no longer receiving votes.

They were able to salvage something positive from the Battle 4 Atlantis by blowing out Rutgers on the 21st. A 74-50 win over previously-ranked Princeton was certainly a positive as well. With those saving graces, Texas hasn’t fall all the way out of the rankings, unlike preseason No. 5 Tennessee. But that will likely change with the South Florida loss.

Preseason All-America honorable mention Rori Harmon returned from a foot injury and made her debut for the Longhorns against Princeton. Her absence from the first three losses was reason not to panic. So was the fact that all three of those opponents are currently ranked. Again, the South Florida loss changes things, though Texas was without Taylor Jones (10.3 points, six rebounds and 2.7 blocks per game) in that one.

Aaliyah Moore had solid games in the losses to Marquette (12 points, 11 rebounds), Louisville (21 points, eight rebounds) and USF (13 points, eight rebounds, three assists, two steals). 2021’s No. 6 Hoop Gurlz recruit hasn’t put up great numbers on a regular basis so far in her career, but the consensus seems to be that she will become a star. Maybe those three performances were the beginning of her rise.

RV (50 points) Oklahoma Sooners (6-1, 0-0 Big 12)

We left Oklahoma reeling from a 46-point loss to now-No. 16 Utah which was extra concerning because the Sooners had also lost by 44 to Notre Dame in last season’s NCAA Tournament and in both contests surrendered triple digits. Since then, they have defeated UT Arlington by nine, Arkansas State by 25 and Northwestern State by 43. They will return to facing a Power 5 test on Sunday when they host Ole Miss. The Rebels are 7-1 with only one game coming against a Power 5 opponent; they lost to Utah by just two, surrendering just 69 points.

Since the other two contests were blowouts, the UT Arlington box score is probably most indicative of who played well for Oklahomas over this last stretch. In that contest, Skylar Vann had 14 points and 12 boards, Madi Williams had 16 points, six boards and three steals, Taylor Robertson had 21 points, Liz Scott had 10 points, nine boards and four steals and Nevaeh Tot had 11 points and six helpers.

The Sooners are first in the league in scoring and last in scoring defense.

RV (25 points) Kansas State Wildcats (7-1, 0-0 Big 12)

The Wildcats led our last update after they upset then-No. 4 Iowa in thrilling fashion. That win got them into the rankings at No. 25 the following Monday. Now, they are receiving votes again because they lost to Arkansas (now receiving 36 voting points) 69-53 this past Saturday in a game where their leading scorer Gabby Gregory injured her ankle and only played 20 minutes. They won their four other games since our last update. Two were blowouts and the other two they won by nine and 13, respectively.

Gregory had 35 points and 10 rebounds in the game before she got injured and also had two other 20-plus-point performances over this last stretch. She is averaging a conference-leading 21.1 points on the season. She is also first in the league with 3.3 treys per contest.

RV (17 points) Kansas Jayhawks (6-0, 0-0 Big 12)

Kansas has cruised to four blowout wins since we last checked in, but it has yet to face a difficult test. Taiyanna Jackson, Holly Kersgieter and Zakiyah Franklin have been the team’s top performers. Jackson is working on two-straight double-doubles, including a 24-point performance this past Saturday. She leads the conference with 10.2 boards per game and with a field goal percentage of 67.9. She is second in blocks per game (2.8). Kersgieter notched a double-double with 15 points and 15 rebounds on Nov. 20 and then had 23 and nine on Wednesday. Franklin is averaging 17 points over the Jayhawks’ last three games. Kansas leads the Big 12 in field goal percentage defense (33.5) and it is the last remaining undefeated team in the conference.

Texas Tech Lady Raiders (6-1, 0-0 Big 12)

We left Texas Tech at 2-1; they had just beaten a Power 5 team, Colorado, in overtime. That remains the Lady Raiders’ lone Power 5 win. Colorado is now 6-2 with its only other loss coming to preseason-No. 5 Tennessee by 18. Time will continue to tell how good of a win it was for the Lady Raiders. Since then, Texas Tech has had a 16-point win, a 12-point win, a five-point win over Middle Tennessee and, most recently, their first blowout win in a while: 91-56 over Alabama State Thursday night.

Bailey Maupin has moved just ahead of just ahead of Rhyle McKinney as the team’s leading scorer thanks to 27 and 17 points in her last two games, respectively. McKinney is fourth in the nation with a 57.6 three-point shooting percentage (19 makes).

West Virginia Mountaineers (5-1, 0-0 Big 12)

As far as the conference goes, the Mountaineers are way out ahead in turnover margin (12.3) and are also first in scoring defense (49.8 points allowed per game). However, they are last in 3-point and free throw percentage. Since our last update, they have three blowout wins and a 38-point loss to now-No. 12 NC State. Madisen Smith has been their most consistent scorer with double-digit points in each game this season and a team-high average of 13.7. She also has a league-leading 2.7 steals per game. Kyah Watson leads the conference in assist/turnover ratio with 18 helpers and just two turnovers.

Oklahoma State Cowgirls (6-2, 0-0 Big 12)

The Cowgirls fell out of unbeaten status with a three-point loss to Kent State on Nov. 20 and suffered their second loss of the season in the final game of the Cancun Challenge this past Saturday. The latter was a 71-65 loss to Purdue in what is their most recent contest. They also now sport a two-point win over Florida State, which was picked to finish ninth out of 15 teams in the ACC. The Seminoles have a star freshman in Ta’Niya Latson and that game is their only loss, so that could prove to be impressive for OK State. However, the Seminoles have won a lot of close ones. The Cowgirls also secured a nine-point win over Harvard over this last stretch, during which Naomie Alnatas averaged 17 points. The team is second in the conference in 3-point percentage (36.8) and in third in scoring (78.9 points per game).

TCU Horned Frogs (3-4, 0-0 Big 12)

The Horned Frogs went 1-3 since we last checked in with fairly close losses coming to a South Florida team that was receiving votes in the preseason, Sam Houston and Rice. Their win was a 60-33 triumph over Incarnate Word. Tomi Taiwo averaged 14.8 points over the stretch and Lucy Ibeh averaged 13.8 points and 7.8 rebounds. Taiwo leads the conference in minutes per game (34.9). TCU is last in the league in scoring, field goal percentage and rebounding margin.