If we see the Ashley Joens we saw on Sunday in the NCAA Tournament, watch out for the Iowa State Cyclones.
Joens went off for 28 points, 10 rebounds, three assists and two steals to lead the Cyclones past the No. 1 seed Texas Longhorns 61-51 in the Big 12 Tournament championship game at Municipal Auditorium in Kansas City. She made it to 3,000 career points in the tournament’s semifinals.
ESPN’s Charlie Creme doesn’t think Iowa State will move into host territory with the win (he has the team as a No. 5 seed), but it was still huge for the program as it brings the first Big 12 Tournament title since 2001 and provides momentum heading into the Big Dance.
Joens backed down on a double team and at 6:53 remaining made a scoop shot high off backboard that hung on front rim before going in and making it 51-41 Cyclones. That happened in the middle of a 9-0 run that brought the score to 56-41 with 5:10 remaining. Emily Ryan provided the exclamation mark of the stretch with a triple to close it out. Iowa State led by double digits the rest of the way.
Joens had the ball in her hands with the shot clock off at the end of the third quarter and with time winding down dished it to Nyamer Diew on the right wing for a three that made it 47-39 entering the fourth. That Iowa State possession came immediately after Texas threw it out of bounds, and on the possession prior to that Denae Fritz got her own miss before putting in a layup at 48 ticks remaining. So it was an eventful and important final minute of the third for the Cyclones.
After trailing most of the second quarter, Iowa State went on a 9-2 run from 8:34 in the third to 5:14 in the third that brought the score to 37-33 Cyclones. The run began with a Joens three that tied the game at 31; the Big 12 Player of the Year scored the final four points of the stretch as well.
Shaylee Gonzales hit a three just 19 seconds into the second to tie the game and set the tone of the frame in Texas’ favor. A Taylor Jones block on Morgan Kane on the other end kept the momentum going for the Longhorns, who took the lead at 16-14 on a Gonzales layup in transition at the 8:23 mark of the second.
It was back-and-forth for a bit after that before Texas went on a 5-0 run to build a comfortable (compared to the rest of the frame) four-point lead. Rori Harmon answered a Fritz three with a driving lay-in to begin the run and then Amina Muhammad converted on a 3-point play that made it 23-19. The Longhorns would go on to lead 27-26 at the break.
Texas came out struggling to score as it had in its first two Big 12 Tournament games. Meanwhile, Joens came out and scored five of the Cyclones’ first seven points and eight of their 14 in the first quarter.