March 11, 2023 

Big 12 Tournament Day 2: Down to the wire

Day 2 of the Big 12 Tournament brought chaos and crazy finishes

KANSAS CITY — It was a packed day of hoops at the Municipal Auditorium for Day 2 of the Big 12 Women’s Basketball Tournament featuring matchups from teams all over the March Madness Field of 68.

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There were four games on the day and two of those were decided by go-ahead buckets at the last possible second. The chaos began at the tip of the very first game which was West Virginia vs Oklahoma State.

West Virginia vs Oklahoma State

First off, it was a given that this game was going to be electric. The first thing I saw when walking into the game was hundreds and hundreds of kids. A kid’s game and postseason basketball? The energy could not be higher.

The kids might not have realized this but they didn’t just get tickets to a basketball game. They got tickets to the JJ Quinerly and Madisen Smith show.

The two West Virginia guards were feeding off of each other from the very beginning of the game. Both took turns running the pick-and-roll from the top of the key, allowing the other to roam the perimeter off the ball. Smith and Quinerly would end up combining for 13 of WVU’s 17 first-quarter points.

Smith would finish the day with 23 points on 8-14 shooting and Quinerly with 18 points on 7-13 shooting. OSU head coach Jacie Hoyt could not find the solution to step them.

“They’re unbelievable. I don’t know how you stop ’em. There were several times we played really great defense and they still score…,” Hoyt said. “I don’t think [Madisen Smith] could see the rim on some of those shots she was making. She is a damn good player. I told our team we can’t hang our heads when those shots go in. As long as we know we did everything we could within the possession, we have to have a short-term memory and do your best the next time.”

That seemed to be the mentality for Oklahoma State this entire game: do everything you can. If it goes right? Great! If not, keep it pushing. 

In the first half, not much would go right as the Cowgirls found themselves down 10 going into the break. Taylen Collins was the lone Cowgirl to really get things going with nine points and five rebounds in the half. 

The third quarter belonged to Quinerly, who had an absolute takeover of the game. The pace of the game went entirely through her. Every possession was a mental game against OSU. Dribbling up the court deciding if she would rather use her blistering speed to blow past the defense, or tight handles to dissect them slowly. She seemed to pick the right option every time putting up nine points and three assists in the third.

It was then time for the fourth quarter. It’s March. It was bound to get crazy.

OSU woke up in this quarter and began to string together some stops. They would find themselves on a 15-3 run to end the game and no two points were more important than this layup by OSU guard Terryn Milton.

The go-ahead layup felt like it was up on the rim for ages from my point of view in the seats. Terryn Milton took us through her point of view after the game.

“It was a clear-out play for me going to the right. I knew that they were going to help in.” Milton said. “As far as the shot, it was a crazy shot. I felt like the ball was on the rim for a good five seconds. It felt like time stood still for a second and then it rolled in, and the rest is history.”

History is right as this would be the first game won by only one point at the Big 12 Tournament since 2013. It would not be the last one of the day.

With that shot, Oklahoma State moved on and West Virginia finds itself pleading its case for a bid in the NCAA Tournament. 

Texas vs Kansas State

The audience of kids would clear out of the arena before this game and honestly it was probably for the best. 

The first quarter of this game ended 8-6 with Kansas State in the lead. Not a typo. Not supposed to be 18-16. Nope. 8-6. 

This would really be the story for the entire first half. Missed shot after missed shot.

Kansas State shot a low 30.8% from the field in the first half. Texas shot a very low 16.7%. Both teams also had double-digit turnovers, Kansas State with 10 and Texas with 11.

Overall, not pretty basketball by any means. No scorer on either team would score more than five points in the half and the teams went in tied 18-18.

The second half would bring change for the number one seed in the bracket Texas Longhorns. While only putting up 18 points in the first half, the defense created some offense and they scored 42 points in the second half. 

“Bad as we played, at halftime we were tied. We just needed to respond, and I was really proud of how we responded to score 42 points.” Texas head coach Vic Schaefer said. “Doesn’t make sense, does it? 18 points the first half, 42 in the second. That don’t wash! But that’s where we’re at right now, and so I was proud of our kids.”

While it was far and away Texas sophomore Rori Harmon’s best offensive performance, she felt she was finding other ways to help the team win.

“Since I wasn’t able to make but two shots out of 15, I felt that defense was going to be my key thing,” Harmon said. “I’m not one of those players who is going to be like, ‘I can’t make a shot, just sit me down.’ No. I’m going to play defense, make penetration, get people open, and I felt like I did that pretty well today.”

Ultimately, Texas would survive the first-half slump on the offensive end and pull away in the second half. A 60-42 victory against the Wildcats put them into the next round for a matchup with Oklahoma State.

TCU vs Oklahoma

Now how about we get back to some chaos shall we? As if TCU pulling off the upset against Kansas was not chaotic enough, they didn’t move on just to move on. They came ready to play.

That is exactly what they did from the tip in this game. They would come out hot on the offensive end in the first quarter and really, against most teams in the country, they would not be matched. Unfortunately for the Horned Frogs, they weren’t just playing against any other offense.

Oklahoma fell behind early and it began feeling like one of the games that would snowball away from the Sooners. However, thanks to Oklahoma guard Taylor Robertson going 3-3 from deep in this quarter alone, Oklahoma would only find themselves down 26-23 at the end of the quarter. 

You hear so much about the Sooners’ senior class and rightfully so, but in this second quarter they would double TCU’s scoring with only their bench.

Junior guard Aubrey Joens and freshman Beatrice Culliton came out onto the floor and brought instant impact, contributing all 16 of OU’s second-quarter points while holding TCU to only eight of their own. 

“I think [Beatrice] is getting better and better. You can tell. And defensively I think she’s a nice, calming presence. And it’s not even that she’s smart. She is a student of the game,” Oklahoma head coach Jennie Baranczyk said. “Offensively I would like her to get in there more. Aubrey continues to do those little things. Obviously, she shot the ball well, but she’s just kind of always there, and you need players that are like that, that just kind of clean up some things.”

Fast forwarding some into the fourth quarter, where the chaos really began.

Both teams were humming on offense with both shooting at least 50% from the field. TCU would end up making eight of their nine final field goals. That performance was enough to get them down only one point with 11 seconds left. Enter TCU senior Lucy Ibeh who had 14 points in the fourth. 

TCU was on the cusp of a monumental upset. A team that had only one conference win in the entire regular season was up against the number two seed with 4.8 left on the clock. But that was enough time for one of the best offenses in the nation. 

Oklahoma guard Skylar Vann again produced late-game heroism and become the Sooners’ savior to push them onto the next round. 

Baylor vs Iowa State

The day’s final contest would decide who the Sooners would be facing. It was time to enter into “Hilton South,” as the Cyclone faithful call Kansas City. They aren’t lying either. Cyclone fans blew the attendance of the other Big 12 teams out of the water and they were loud

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Throughout the entire game, Iowa State senior guard Ashley Joens was on the receiving end of many different defensive looks. Ultimately, the Big 12 Player of the Year still got what she wanted. Joens would end with a game-high 30 points. Baylor freshman Darianna Littlepage-Buggs, who was the lucky one tasked with guarding Joens at different points throughout the game, detailed what makes her so difficult. 

“That’s a tough assignment because she can shoot and she can also play downhill,”  Littlepage-Buggs said. “When she does attack downhill, she plays underneath. So being disciplined and you have to stay down, that was probably the hardest thing. But also knowing when and not to help on her, because she does have that three.”

Coming into the day, this was the game that everyone had circled as the game of the day on paper. While Baylor was the sixth seed in the tournament, their talent roster reflects higher than that. This game absolutely lived up to the heavyweight billing. 

Slug for slug, punch for punch, the two teams would only knock the other down, but never out. 

They went into halftime tied up at 37. Both teams shot around 40% from the field and from three. Both around the same rate from the free throw line. It was as even as it could get. 

The second half is when we would see Iowa State begin to creep away from Baylor in this game. The scales tipped their way in the stats as Baylor went 31% from the field and 11% from three; Iowa State raised its field-goal percentage up to 50%.

Even with those changes, Baylor would find a way to tie this game at 63 with around four minutes left. Then Ashley Joens happened. 

Back-to-back threes from the Big 12 Player of the Year sparked an 11-0 run over the last 4 minutes to end the game for the Cyclones. The knockdown punches had turned into a knockout.

“When you have [Ashley Joens and junior guard Emily Ryan], you just feel comfortable that we’re going to — I’m not saying we’re going to win the game, but we’re going to make the right plays.” Iowa State Head Coach Bill Fennelly said. “Luckily we made them, and we probably defended the last four minutes better than we had the whole game. Wish we could bottle that last 3:59. Amazing finish to the game.”

Iowa State will meet up against Oklahoma for the rubber match after splitting the season series with the Sooners.

What’s on deck?

Day 3 of the Big 12 Tournament looks to be primed for more great action. The bracket has shaken out with the top four seeds remaining in tournament play. The best of the best in the Big 12 will be battling it out for a conference title.

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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