AMES – In Big 12 women’s basketball, the championship still runs through Waco, Texas.
The Baylor Bears have won a share of the regular season title every year since 2011. In HiltonColiseum Monday night, that streak was in jeopardy.
With a win, No. 8 Iowa State would take sole possession of first place on the Big 12 conference with one game to go. However, playing its more physical style of basketball, the No. 5 ranked Bears beat Iowa State by a score of 87-62. Baylor outrebounded the Cyclones 44-26.
“A Big 12 title is a is a big deal,” Ashley Joens said shortly after being honored in senior night festivities in front of the second-largest crowd for a women’s game in Hilton Coliseum history.
“We have to learn from this one we can’t let it define us.” In the game, Baylor’s NaLyssa Smith grabbed 28 points and a career-high 20 rebounds.
“We were not nearly good enough in a lot of areas,” head coach Bill Fennelly said. “And that’s my fault.”
From the jump, Baylor dictated the style in which Monday’s night game would be played. For nearly two and a half minutes in the first quarter, neither team scored. With the officiated crew allowing bumps down low, 13,907 in attendance at Hilton Coliseum were witnessing a slugfest.
Emily Ryan finished through contact twice in the first quarter. The second time to beat the buzzer and bring the game to 19-18 in favor of Baylor.
Shortly after the start of the second quarter, Baylor center Queen Egbo was called for two quick fouls. With 6:09 to go in the quarter, Egbo headed to the bench and Iowa State took the lead 24-21.
It would be Iowa State’s only lead of the game. Baylor ended the half on a 16-3 run and quieted the Hilton Coliseum crowd. Baylor’s defense limited Lexi Donarski to zero points in the first half.
At the break, Baylor led the Cyclones 41-29.
On Senior night, Iowa State leading scorer Joens was fouled seven times and scored 11 points from the charity stripe. With her three-point shot not falling, Joens needed to score inside against a bigger, more physical Baylor defense. Iowa State’s all-time leading scorer was 0-8 from beyond the arc. Joens finished with 19 points before being called for her fifth foul with 6:02
to go in the game.
“The one thing we stressed at Nauseum was staying out of foul trouble,” Fennelly said. “If we have Ash and Lex in foul trouble, we got a problem.”
Donarksi finished with nine points and three fouls while playing 27 minutes. The sophomore averages 35.6 minutes per game.
In the third quarter, Baylor continued to pad its lead and even enjoyed a 30-point cushion partway through the fourth quarter.
Baylor sits in the driver’s seat on top of the Big 12 conference standing. The Bears have guaranteed themselves the top seed in the Big 12 tournament and at least a share of the regular-season title. Baylor will face Texas Tech on Saturday to finish the regular season. With a Baylor loss and an Iowa State win over West Virginia, the teams will split the regular season
Iowa State is now 24-5 with one game remaining. The record is one Fennelly was pleased to see, even after dropping the second game of the season to Baylor.