Dec 30, 2023; Stillwater, Okla, USA ; Iowa State Cyclones head coach Bill Fennelly, right, reacts with the bench in the second half of an NCAA womenÕs basketball game against the Oklahoma State Cowgirls at Gallagher Iba arena. Mandatory Credit: Mitch Alcala-The Oklahoman
Arianna Jackson doubled her career-high in scoring in Iowa State’s 76-68 win over Oklahoma State in Stillwater that opened Big 12 play for the Cyclones.
In 25 minutes on the court, Jackson tallied 14 points, went 4-for-5 from the 3-point line and hit a pair of shots from long range that shifted the momentum from sizable Oklahoma State runs throughout the game.
“There was a lot of people that played really well, but I don’t think there was any question A.J. was – she was tremendous,” Iowa State coach Bill Fennelly said on the Cyclone Radio Network. “I think everything she did today was amazing, and she hit two shots when I mean, you talk about hell breaking loose – we broke the press and she got a good look at it. But again, I thought our kids for the most part – did the things we asked them to do. With this league, it’s hard to win, period, let alone on the road.”
The Cyclones battled back from a 7-point deficit in the first quarter after Oklahoma State netted four three’s in the first 10 minutes.
They went into both the first quarter and halftime breaks with one-possession leads before opening things up with a 19-9 scoring advantage in the third quarter.
However, Oklahoma State didn’t go away. The Cowgirls forced four turnovers in the first 90 seconds of the final frame and trimmed their deficit to six, which they did twice more before the game’s end.
“I was really proud of the fact that – we’ve brought a lot of teams down here and when you get on the road, things are done against you… you can lose your mind quickly,” Fennelly said. “But I thought our kids had composure. We didn’t handle the pressure, obviously, for about three minutes. We do work on press offense, but it doesn’t look like it. That has been in our plans, but we made some plays.”
The freshmen never wavered – even in the face of a 6-0 run paired with the consecutive turnovers. They ended Oklahoma State runs with Jackson’s momentous makes.
“It’s really hard to describe, because number one it speaks to how they’re raised and how they were coached – the only people that weren’t panicking were the freshman,” Fennelly said. “That’s the coaches – everyone else – and Audi (Crooks) and Addy Brown and A.J. were just like, ‘Yeah, we’re good.’ Obviously there’s going to be moments where their freshman colors are going to show, but they didn’t today.”
Crooks and Brown again showed out, combining for 41 points. Crooks had a team-high 21 with seven rebounds. Brown had nine boards with five assists to go with her 20-point performance.
Pairing that with Jackson’s game made things difficult for OSU.
“It definitely was (a fun game),” Jackson said. “Coach Fennelly tries to focus on the little things, we just try to focus on that and what we can do to help our teammates to get them in the right spot and have them succeed. Everyone’s going to have their night – tonight was just my night, so I just want to say thank you to my teammates for getting me in the right spot and getting me the ball.”
Jackson had her struggles to this point in the season, as was expected. Iowa State wanted her to adjust to a role where she was called on to score far less than what was needed for her Des Moines Roosevelt High School team.
The freshman point guard was thrown into the deep end from the jump, and had to adapt to her new role on the fly.
“Just knowing that all of the work I’ve done – and everything that has led up to this point,” Jackson said. “We’ve played so many games and my confidence has grown with every game. Just knowing that my teammates have a lot of trust in me – that means a lot. Knowing that they trust me to go out, shoot the ball and do what I do, that makes it work.”
Emily Ryan played her most minutes of the season after the 10-day break from games surrounding the holidays. The senior leader recorded four points, four rebounds and six assists while being on the court for 21 minutes – a welcomed sign for Iowa State fans.
However, fellow point guard Hannah Belanger suffered a foot injury, according to Fennelly on the Varsity Network. Iowa State limited Belanger in the game, as she finished with 15 minutes, missing her pair of 3-point attempts.
Isnelle Natabou added 10 points in the post for the Cyclones as well.
“It means a lot,” Crooks said of her team’s win. “We’ve had a lot of people question us and question our team. It was nice to get our first Big 12 road matchup. We had bumps in the road – like we expected – but we finished.”
Iowa State returns to the Hilton Coliseum with another opportunity on Wednesday (6:30 p.m. ESPN+), facing a Kansas team that was beaten by 25 points by West Virginia in Lawrence, Saturday.