By Michael Haag | Sports Editor
Even with four players in double figures, sixth-seeded Baylor women’s basketball couldn’t overcome third-seeded Iowa State University. The green and gold fell 74-63 in the quarterfinals of the Phillips 66 Big 12 Women’s Basketball Championship Friday night in the Municipal Auditorium in Kansas City, Mo.
Baylor (19-12) hung close for most of the contest, but an 11-0 run by Iowa State (20-9) in the final 3:52 sealed the deal.
“It was a really good game, a really good game,” head coach Nicki Collen said. “It was a really good Iowa State crowd. I thought we played really, really well for about 34 or 35 minutes.”
The Bears couldn’t contain the Cyclones’ fifth-year senior forward Ashley Joens, as she scored a game-high 30 points on 7-of-15 3-point shooting. Joens also hauled in a game-high 15 rebounds to secure her 14th double-double of the season.
Baylor was led by freshman forward Darianna Littlepage-Buggs, who scored 16 points on 57% from the floor. Fifth-year senior forward Caitlin Bickle and senior guard Jaden Owens each chipped in with 15 points apiece, while junior guard Sarah Andrews trailed with 12 points. Andrews also came close to a triple double, as she snagged six rebounds and dished out a game-best nine assists.
Junior guard Jana Van Gytenbeek came off the bench and recorded a career-high seven assists in 20 minutes of time on the floor.
Collectively, the Bears shot just 37% from the floor and 26% from deep. They were also outrebounded by a margin of 25.
Iowa State jumped out to a 15-5 lead halfway through the first quarter, but Baylor was able to trim its deficit to just five points after a layup from Littlepage-Buggs with 1:26 left in the period. Neither team scored before the first quarter buzzer sounded, and the Cyclones led 19-14 over the Bears.
Owens caught fire in the following period, as she hit two of three shots from 3-point land on the way to a team-high 10 points for the quarter. Eight of Owens’ points came in just over a minute of action. Her scoring burst gave her a game-high 13 points in the first half. She was 4-for-5 from the floor in the 10-minute stretch and helped Baylor tie the game at 37 points on either side going into the break.
The third quarter was a back-and-forth affair, but the Cyclones pushed their lead to five points nearly four minutes out of intermission. The Bears responded with six-straight points to retake the advantage two minutes later. Baylor clung to a one-point edge with just under two minutes remaining, but ISU hit a pair of free throws and got a layup from Joens to lead 54-49 heading into the fourth quarter.
Joens erupted in the final period to the tune of 13 points. She was one point shy of matching Baylor’s total points scored (14) in the closing 10 minutes. Joens made a 3-pointer to make it a six-point game in favor of the Cyclones with 7:42 to play, but Littlepage-Buggs scored a layup to knot the tally at 63-63 with 4:07 left in the game.
That was the last basket the Bears would get, as ISU rolled to 11-straight points and the 74-63 win. The Cyclones started with a made jump shot before three-consecutive 3-pointers, two of them courtesy of Joens.
Iowa State advances to face second-seeded No. 14 University of Oklahoma at 2:30 p.m. on Saturday in the semifinals.
Baylor awaits its destination and seeding in the NCAA tournament, which will be revealed at 8 p.m. ET on Sunday as part of ESPN’s Selection Sunday show. The Bears are currently being projected as an eight or nine-seed, according to ESPN.com’s Women’s Bracketology.
Collen said she isn’t worried about her team and the fact that it’s on a two-game losing streak heading into the NCAA tournament.
“So much of the NCAA tournament is matchups,” Collen said. “It doesn’t matter what your seed is; it’s who you play and how you play. We’re packing our bags to go win. I don’t care where it is — I’m sure it won’t be an easy one. But we’re playing to win.”