AMES – It didn’t seem impossible for the Iowa State women’s basketball team (18-10, 9-8 Big 12) to beat the No. 3 Baylor Bears (26-3, 15-2 Big 12) on Saturday – just improbable.
The Bears entered the game having already clinched the Big 12 regular season championship and had defeated the Cyclones by a lopsided 79-47 final back in January.
None of that mattered on Saturday.
The Cyclones upset the Bears 76-71 on Senior Day in front of 12,107 fans at Hilton Coliseum – Iowa State’s first win over Baylor since 2010.
“Today it wasn’t about what was on paper,” said Iowa State senior Brynn Williamson. “It was about what was underneath our jersey and that was our heart.”
It didn’t matter that the Cyclones were undersized down low. They out-rebounded Baylor 37-31. They held the Big 12’s best offensive rebounding team, at 15.6 per game, to just seven offensive boards – and out-scored them 16-7 on second chance points.
Senior forward Fallon Ellis led the way down low in just her third start of the season, scoring 18 points, including four 3-pointers. She also anchored the Iowa State defense despite being just 5-foot-11-inches.
“This entire season I’ve been playing against posts that are taller than me and bigger than me,” Ellis said. “I’m strong and I’m also quick. I’m capable of stopping people and that’s the mindset I had coming into the game.”
She also brought home the rare honor of being leading scorer of the game and singer of the pregame National Anthem.
“My Mom asked me to do it,” Ellis said. “She kept saying, ‘Are you singing the National Anthem? Are you singing the National Anthem?’ Because I did it back in high school for a men’s game and that in front of like 200 people. I was like well this is 11,000 people we’re talking about here.”
The bigger crowd didn’t make a difference.
“She killed it,” point guard Nikki Moody said.
Moody made a big mark on the game as well, scoring 13 points and dishing out 11 assists – the first of those coming on a three by Ellis to make Moody the program’s all-time leading distributor.
Williamson scored 17 points, grabbed seven rebounds and made four 3-pointers.
It truly was Senior Day.
“I think all three seniors did exactly what you would hope three seniors would do,” said Iowa State head coach Bill Fennelly, who achieved career win number 600 with the victory. “When you win big games a lot of it comes down to how your key players play at certain times and I thought all three of our seniors were tremendous. I think you’ve seen when our seniors are engaged and doing the things that we ask them to do we’re pretty good.”
It was a win that should do wonders for the Cyclones’ NCAA Tournament hopes that appeared to be hanging on by a thread entering Saturday.
That doesn’t mean that it’s time to let down. The Cyclones still have a trip to Kansas on Monday before they head to Dallas for the Big 12 Tournament.
“Coach told us we needed two more wins,” Williamson said. “We looked at Coach and we said, ‘okay if that’s what you want that’s what we’ll do.’”
The Kansas Jayhawks, the Big 12 and NCAA Tournaments are worries for another day.
Today, the Cyclones will enjoy their fourth win all-time over a third-ranked team at Hilton Coliseum.
"All the things that we talk about that make college basketball special," Fennelly said. "Is what we saw today."