Mar 11, 2019; Oklahoma City, OK, USA; Iowa State Cyclones guard Ashley Joens (24) shoots the ball while defended by Baylor Lady Bears guard Chloe Jackson (24) during the third quarter in the women’s Big 12 Conference Tournament at Chesapeake Energy Arena. Mandatory Credit: Rob Ferguson-USA TODAY Sports
AMES — It took a total team effort.
Ashley Joens was gritty. Rae Johnson and Maggie Espenmiller-McGraw hit some big 3-pointers. Morgan Kane was a dog down low.
It took everyone for the Cyclones to beat No. 2 Baylor 57-56 on senior day, handing the Lady Bears their first Big 12 loss since 2017.
“I’m just happy for everyone who loves Iowa State,” Iowa State coach Bill Fennelly said. “Senior day is always special, but I don’t think there’s been a better one than today.”
It also took everything going right for the Cyclones for them to squeak this one out.
Fennelly didn’t draw up a play for a go-ahead 3-pointer by Ines Nezerwa, just her fourth made 3-pointer of the season, with 33 seconds to go.
He didn’t plan on Joens being fouled on the final in-bound play to put the sophomore at the free-throw line with a tie game and virtually no time left on the clock.
Nonetheless, Joens drew the foul and the clock read 0.1 seconds.
If Joens stepped up to the line, she just had to make one shot and Iowa State would win the game.
Johnson and Espenmiller-McGraw were jumping around at half court as if the game had already been won.
“That’s exactly how much confidence we have in (Joens),” Johnson said. “She’s a great player. She put herself in a great position.”
The Cyclones had to overcome a second-quarter where they scored just three points.
They had to overcome the physicality of the Lady Bears – something Fennelly compared to Iowa State’s star freshman running back going through a Big 12 defense.
“That kid (Joens) is one tough you-know-what,” Fennelly said. “She probably got hit more than Breece Hall. Seriously.”
Joens’ 15 points were enough to put her over the 1,000-point mark, becoming the first sophomore in Iowa State history to ever reach the milestone.
That was the last thing on anyone’s mind, though, after a win like that.
Fennelly called it lucky.
“It’s got to go that way, and we tell our kids this,” Fennelly said. “If we play them 10 times, we’re going to maybe, maybe, maybe get lucky once. We don’t have to be better than them in a 4-out-of-7 series, we have to be better in a 40-minute game.”
Although it took a lot of things to go the Cyclones’ way for them to get the win, Fennelly attested it to the effort and hard work his team has put in.
The same team that started 1-3 in Big 12 play and was thought to be on the outside looking into the NCAA Tournament bubble.
“We were lucky, but at the same time, I am a firm believer that the basketball gods reward people and you get lucky when you compete,” Fennelly said. “I said it’s a damn fight. You’re going to get knocked down. Get your butt up and let’s keep fighting.”
Iowa State did just that, and the Cyclones earned a damn big win.