March 12, 2023 

Big 12 Tournament Day 4: Iowa State wins it all

Cyclone star Ashley Joens took home Most Outstanding Player honors.

KANSAS CITY, Mo. – Day 4 of the Big 12 Tournament arrived and it was time to crown a champion and the Iowa State Cyclones were victorious, upsetting top-seeded Texas 61-51. The Longhorns fought their way back -to the Championship game to defend their title and the No. 3 seeded Iowa State Cyclones had not won a Big 12 Tournament in over two decades. Their last title came in 2001.

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Big game feel was an understatement and “Hilton South” was in full effect with Iowa State faithful packing into Municipal Auditorium to create a home-court advantage with the Cyclones.

Tickets to the game might have read “Big 12 Tournament Championship,” but they might as well have said “The Ashley Joens Show” with the way she played.

When deciding to use her COVID year, these were the moments that Joens hoped for when returning to Iowa State. The moment arrived and nobody seemed more ready for the bright lights than Joens. In the first quarter, she got off to a quick start scoring eight points and Iowa State beat Texas in columns of the box score where they really excel like turnovers and second-chance points.

From start to finish, neither team shot the ball particularly well. Both teams hovered around the 33 percent mark from quarter to quarter. Going into halftime, Texas held a one-point lead at 27-26.

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The Cyclones changed their defensive philosophy after the break and switched to a 2-3 zone. Texas’ biggest strength across the Big 12 this season was the Longhorns’ ability to out-size every opponent. Iowa State has decent size, but it was the zone defense that neutralized the Texas bigs. Rotations from the Cyclone guards from the top of the zone to the block limited production.

Texas was forced to try and score in ways the Longhorns aren’t normally comfortable with which led to a 2-for-7 performance from deep in the second half. Texas also struggled to make most of its opportunities at the free throw line. The Longhorns went 4-for-11 from the charity stripe including critical misses down the stretch from Rori Harmon and Amina Muhammed with around 2:30 left in the game.

One player who made the most of her trips to the free throw line in the second half was Joens who went 8-for-11 from the line to help her reach 28 total points on the day. This was enough to earn the honor of Most Outstanding Player for the tournament and lead Iowa State to its first Big 12 Tournament title since 2001. Iowa State Head Coach Bill Fennelly had this to say about his star player.

“I really think it’s one of those things where the one thing we talked with Ashley about as she was finishing was the great players show up at the biggest moments,” Fennely said. “She doesn’t need any validation by any means, but when you lead a tournament to a championship you’re in rarified air there. I think that was something she was focused on when we came down here. She was incredible. Incredible for three days.”

The celebration began right after the buzzer sounded and no one was more energetic or happy for herself and the team than Iowa State’s Nyamer Diew.

While Iowa State won the day, Texas won the Selection Sunday seeding. No. 4 seed Texas will face No. 13 seed East Carolina in the first round while fifth-seeded Iowa State will be traveling to Knoxville for a first-round matchup with 12th-seeded Toledo.

Written by Tyler DeLuca

Tyler DeLuca has been contributing to The Next team since May 2022. Tyler currently is the Big 12 beat writer for The Next. Tyler's work is also featured on Twitter with The Committee, hosting the "Art of the Paint" podcast and on Gameday U Hoops throughout the college season.

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