March 13, 2024 

How Texas concluded its Big 12 tenure with a title

Madison Booker plays beyond her years in win over Iowa State

KANSAS CITY, Mo. – At the beginning of this season, not many would have predicted that the finals of the 2024 Big 12 Tournament Championship would be a rematch of last year. The 2024 Big 12 champion would no longer be crowned at historic Municipal Auditorium but down the street at T-Mobile Center in downtown Kansas City. In what is the last Big 12 appearance for No. 2 seed Texas, their road to a second tournament title in the last three years would go through last year’s champion – No. 4 seed Iowa State. After a 70-53 victory, the Longhorns were able to claim just that.

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In the new-look Big 12, these two teams only faced each other once, with Texas handling the young Cyclones at home on Feb. 17, 81-60. Texas took care of business against Kansas in their first game and then grinded out a 71-64 win over #16 Kansas State in the semifinals. Iowa State knocked off two ranked teams to get to the championship game, beating #19 Baylor in the quarterfinals and dispatching with #17 Oklahoma in the semifinals 85-68.

Both teams traded baskets to begin the game but in what would be the theme throughout, the Texas defense went to work, causing 10 first-half turnovers by swallowing up the Iowa State offense. Their aggressive pressure was relentless in the full court on ball handlers, cutting off penetration lanes and contesting every catch and shot from Cyclone freshman post Audi Crooks. Co-Big 12 Player of the Year Madison Booker scored nine of the Longhorns’ first 14 points in quarter one, setting the tone with her smooth midrange jumper and two timely three-point makes. Iowa State was held scoreless for a span of almost nine minutes in the first half allowing the Longhorns to take a 19-point lead into the locker room, 40-21.

The relentless pressure defense of Texas made for a long night for Iowa State freshman center Audi Crooks, who battled to 25 points on 11-of-20 from the field. (Photo credit: Big 12 Conference)

“Our defense was outstanding in the first half,” said Texas head coach Vic Schaefer. “We held them to 21 points. We had some steals that resulted in some breakaways and some layups, and you are going against one of the best point guards in the country in my mind. I won’t miss having to go against her.”

Iowa State would cut into the first half deficit in the third quarter, outscoring Texas 16-11, behind eight points by Crooks and five by senior point guard Emily Ryan. The Cyclones gave their faithful fans something to cheer about by trimming the Texas lead to 12 with 1:21 remaining in the third, but each time they picked up any kind of momentum, Booker was there with an answer. She beat the quarter buzzer with another 15-foot jumper to push the Texas advantage to 51-37 with 10 minutes to play and the Longhorns continued their suffocating assault on defense until the final buzzer. Texas finished with 23 points off 20 Iowa State turnovers.

“We dug ourselves a hole and a lot of times this season we been able to climb out of that but tonight was not one of those nights,” said Crooks. “We can’t continue to put ourselves in those bad situations.” 

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Shaylee Gonzales went the distance for 40 minutes for Texas to help the secure a 70-53 victory of the fourth seeded Iowa State Cyclones. (Photo credit: Big 12 Conference)

Shaylee Gonzales proved yet again how important veteran guard play can be by logging 40 minutes for head coach Vic Schaefer, scoring 11 points and dishing out five assists. Junior Aaliyah Moore had 14 points and six rebounds, earning her a spot on the All-Tournament team. Booker had 26 points (12-for-22 from the field), six boards and five assists in 40 minutes, earning the freshman from Ridgeland, Mississippi Most Outstanding Player (MOP) for the 2024 Big 12 Championship. She becomes the second Texas freshman to earn the honor, the first being All-American guard Rori Harmon in 2022.

Freshman Madison Booker has carried a heavy load this season for Texas and put the Longhorns on her back to secure the 2024 Big 12 Tournament title and Most Outstanding Player honors. (Photo credit: Big 12 Conference)

Moore weighed in on the performance of the MOP. “It’s the same thing every night with Booker. She’s so consistent. She hits shots. She does it all the time. She leads our team. She does it all the time. She’s a vocal leader, as a freshman and she listens, which is nice. I love playing with Book.”

Iowa State head coach Bill Fennelly came into this season with one of the youngest rosters in the nation and after some early season bumps and multiple games without Ryan to lead the way, found their footing in conference play. Late regular season wins, and this run to their second consecutive tournament final, has the Cyclones positioned to see their name called on Selection Sunday.

“It is never fun to lose a game, but the good news is I get to go home with these guys on the bus, we get to go back to practice, and they get to play in the NCAA Tournament,” said Fennelly. “I could not be more proud of them and how they’ve done it. We are excited to go back to work.”

Texas is now 3-7 in Big 12 title games and after being an original conference member when it was established in 1996, will move on to the SEC next season. But before they tackle a new league and what is a familiar tournament site for Schaefer from his days coaching in the SEC, the Longhorns are peaking at the right time for the NCAA Tournament.

“I am proud of my kids because we beat a hell of a team tonight,” said Schaefer. 

Written by Missy Heidrick

I am a retired Kansas State shooting guard and spent almost 20 years working in Higher Education and Division 1 athletics. I am currently a basketball analyst for television and radio, contributing correspondent at The Next, Locked on Women's Basketball podcast host, WBB Naismith Award board of selectors member and run my own consulting business. I am a proud mother of two and wife to a patient husband who is almost as big of a sports junkie as I am!

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