March 10, 2024 

Big 12 Tournament Day 3: Program records fall, top seeds survive

Iowa State, Oklahoma, Texas and Kansas State will play in the semifinals

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Eight of the conference’s 14 teams have at least received votes in the AP Poll this season but at the end of Day 3, it is the top four seeds who will advance to the Big 12 Women’s Basketball Tournament semifinals at Kansas City’s T-Mobile Center.

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Those teams will get an off day Sunday before returning to action for the semifinals on Monday, starting when No. 4 seed Iowa State faces top-seed Oklahoma at 1:30 p.m. CT and No. 2 Texas takes on No. 3 Kansas State at 4 p.m. CT. The winners will advance to the championship game on Tuesday night.

Here’s how we got there on an action-packed Saturday:

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Iowa State storms back to beat Baylor

With five minutes left in the game, Baylor’s narrow five-point lead felt secure. Senior Dre’Una Edwards had knocked down back-to-back three-pointers. Iowa State hadn’t scored in more than three and a half minutes and looked baffled offensively, committing a dreaded shot-clock violation.

So how did the Cyclones end up winning 67-62 to secure a spot in the Big 12 tournament semifinals? 

Patience. And a lot of focus at the line. 

“Certainly, that’s what March basketball is supposed to be about,” Iowa State coach Bill Fennelly said. 

Another minute went by before Iowa State scored a pair of free throws. They would add a total of 10 points from the charity stripe in those final minutes – and two well-timed layups to reverse the course of the game. Six of those free throws came from senior Emily Ryan

“She steps up and makes big plays for this team and keeps us calm,” teammate Addy Brown said. “That’s our leader, our go-to.”

Ryan finished with 12 points, 10 assists and seven rebounds. She also broke the program’s all-time assist record in the game. Freshman Audi Crooks scored a game-high 23 points while going 11-for-18 from the field. Brown added 16 points and two of the aforementioned free throws. 

The Cyclones still have a chance to repeat as tournament champions, but they’ll need to take down the regular season champ in Monday’s semifinal.

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Oklahoma locks it down defensively to hold off TCU

As their lead disappeared, the Big 12 regular season champions turned up the defense. And, as it tends to do for the Oklahoma Sooners, the offense followed. 

Oklahoma weathered that third-quarter rally and eventually sailed to a 69-53 victory which helped them secure a spot in the semifinals for the third consecutive year. The Sooners held TCU to a stifling 28.8% from the field, which was the lowest by any Oklahoma opponent this season.

“Really proud of especially our second-half effort,” Oklahoma coach Jennie Baranczyk said. “Just a fun game for the Big 12.”

Sahara Williams scored 13 of her 17 points in the second half and pulled down six rebounds. With her leading the Sooners’ attack in the post, Oklahoma outscored TCU 30-14 down low. The bench also played an important role, adding 21 points, nearly a third of the team’s scoring.

“I thought we just kind of executed our game plan a little better in the second half, which allowed a lot of scoring opportunities for everyone,” Williams said.

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Texas turns it on late to pull away from Kansas 

Texas guard Shay Holle knocked down the Longhorns’ first three-pointer of the game with 10 seconds to go in the third quarter. It wasn’t a terribly surprising statistic for the Longhorns, who only averaged four treys a game in the regular season, but it was a defining moment in this 76-60 victory against Kansas. 

Till that point, Texas had largely controlled the contest defensively but struggled to put the game away. Her basket seemed to spark a commanding 28-point fourth-quarter performance from Texas and in turn, secure a spot in the Big 12 semifinals on Monday evening. 

“As I told Shay Holle, it’s a whole lot easier to coach this game when you have a guard that can make a shot,” Longhorn coach Vic Schaefer said. “Proud of these kids, you know. They just continue to fight and compete, find a way to win.”

Holle scored five more points over the next 70 seconds to extend the lead and scored 10 total points in the game. Big 12 Freshman of the Year Madison Booker led the Longhorns with 21 points and surpassed the 500-point mark in her young career. Aaliyah Moore added 19 with a team-high 11 rebounds. 

The powerful Kansas trio Holly Kersgieter, Zakiyah Franklin and S’Mya Nichols combined for 50 of the team’s 60 points. Kersgieter went 4-for-6 from three-point range which helped the Jayhawks keep pace until that final Texas run.

With the win, it means that both Texas and Oklahoma are still able to win a Big 12 tournament title in the final year before the two schools both move to the SEC.

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Lee breaks Kansas State record, Wildcats survive vs. West Virginia

West Virginia got out to a quick start and led third-seeded Kansas State by as many as 12 points as a predominantly purple crowd watched on nervously. 

The Wildcats found their groove and clawed back the lead before halftime, but it was never comfortable, even in the final moments of their 65-62 victory against the Mountaineers. West Virginia had several chances late in the game, including a potential game-tying 3-pointer at the buzzer that rimmed out.

“Heck of a game,” Kansas State coach Jeff Mittie said. “They got off to a great start, knocking a lot of threes down. Our defense got a lot better as the game went on and we started to make some plays. Then, we had some self-inflicted problems but West Virginia does that to a lot of people.”

Shooting around 60% in the contest, Kansas State struggled to contain West Virginia’s junior guard JJ Quinerly who finished with a game-high 27 points. That included a 5-for-7 performance from the three-point line. Jordan Harrison turned in a monster fourth quarter, going on a 7-point run. Of course, it was Quinerly again with that final look. 

Senior guard Gabby Gregory stepped up big for the Wildcats, matching a career-high with three three-pointers, including two in the final quarter. She also pulled down her own rebound, put it back twice and scored a layup during a personal 8-0 run. She finished with 11.

“She is just fun to play with,” fellow Kansas State guard Serena Sundell said. “She’s been shooting it with confidence this whole year but to see her get back in the groove and just be such a threat on the three-point line is what we need from her.”

Ayoka Lee turned in a double-double and broke the program’s rebounding record in the process. She now has 1,088 despite battling injuries throughout her career with the Wildcats. 

According to tournament staff, Saturday evening was the league’s highest-attended tournament session since 2013, no doubt helped by the presence of Kansas State. The Wildcats’ campus in Manhattan, Kan., is located just about two hours away from downtown Kansas City.

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Written by Kathleen Gier

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