March 11, 2024 

Big 12 Tournament Day 4: Iowa State, Texas set up a championship rematch

Cyclones win big, Longhorns survive a late run to advance

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — After a day of rest, the Big 12 Women’s Basketball Tournament returned to T-Mobile Center in Kansas City, Mo., on Monday afternoon with the top four seeds still contending for a title.

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Top-seeded Oklahoma, winner of the league’s regular-season title, fell in a shocking upset but second-seeded Texas survived a late comeback attempt to keep hopes alive for its final Big 12 title. Both teams are set to leave for the SEC in 2024-25.

Texas will meet Iowa State in the Big 12 championship game at 8 p.m. CT on Tuesday. It is a rematch of the 2023 affair, won by the Cyclones.

Oklahoma vs. Iowa State

With a dominant 85-68 victory against Oklahoma, the Cyclones knocked off the Big 12 regular season champions and advanced to the Big 12 championship game for the second straight season. 

The repeat trip wouldn’t come as much of a surprise for most schools in most years, but this Iowa State team does not fit the “most” tag in either category. 

In the offseason, Iowa State lost 77% of its scoring and 67% of its rebounding, replacing those players with five freshmen and two transfers. Still, Bill Fennelly’s squad finished the year with 12 conference wins for the fourth time in six seasons. 

“It’s kind of like watching your grandkids open presents at Christmas because it’s new, it’s exciting for them,” Fennelly said about the team’s run to the Big 12 championship game. “It never gets old for those of us that have been blessed to get to do it.”

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Perhaps the most improbable piece of the run was this game, in which the Cyclones completely flipped the script from an 86-72 loss to the Longhorns on Feb. 10. That first matchup saw Iowa State trail by 14 at the half and struggle to slow down the Oklahoma offense. 

This time around, the Cyclones shot a blistering 57.9% from the field and north of 50% from beyond the arc. They held the Sooners to just 26.1% and a low mark of 21.1% in the first quarter.

“That is a great team who beat us really bad at our place and the way we played today – the caught us on a bad day for them and a great day for us,” Fennelly said. “That’s as good a 30 minutes as we possibly could have and we did it at the right time.”

Freshman Audi Crooks led the Cyclones with 25 points and nine rebounds while shooting 12-for-19 from the field. Fellow freshman Addy Brooks added 16 points and senior leader Emily Ryan turned in a 12-point, 10-rebound double-double for Iowa State. 

Oklahoma leaves the Big 12 Conference with four tournament championships: 2002, 2004, 2006 and 2007.

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Texas vs. Kansas State

With a tied score and spot in the conference championship on the line, senior guard Shaw Holle stepped up again for the Texas Longhorns with a personal five-point run. The Longhorns went on to secure a 71-64 victory. 

“The growth of that young lady and her development is probably top three in my career,” “Texas coach Vic Schaefer said. “She is just a winner.”

Holle drained a three to give the Longhorns the lead with 1:13 left, then caught an inbounds pass and scored a go-ahead layup while her defender went flying out of bounds. 

 “You would think that there would be defense back there, sitting in the paint, but there was absolutely no one,” Shaylee Gonzales said. “I see Shay wide-open and just lob-pass it to her.”

The Sooners led by as many as 14 in the first half, but Kansas State kept chipping away. The Wildcats were especially effective in the paint, scoring 38 points down low. Ayoka Lee led the attack with 25 points, shooting 11-for-17 in the game. 

Although the Longhorns limited her to just seven in the second half, five of them were in that final 9-2 run the Wildcats used to tie the game.

Texas used a balanced attack with five players finishing in double digits. Big 12 Freshman of the Year Madison Booker scored a team-high 17 in 26 minutes. DeYona Gaston, who drew the unenviable assignment of guarding Lee, scored 10 off the bench and pulled down eight rebounds. 

Texas returns to the title game for the third consecutive year, and will once again face the Cyclones, who won in 2023. The Longhorns won their last title in 2022 against Baylor, and beat Iowa State handly in Austin, Texas, 81-60, on Feb. 17.

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Written by Kathleen Gier

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