Women's Basketball

Audi Crooks scores 21 points in 24 minutes and Iowa State trounces Troy in Emily Ryan’s return

 Iowa State Cyclones center Audi Crooks (55) takes a shot against Troy Trojans during the second quarter of a NCAA women’s basketball at Hilton Coliseum on Sunday, Dec. 17, 2023, in Ames, Iowa. © Nirmalendu Majumdar/Ames Tribune / USA TODAY NETWORK

AMES — Audi Crooks scored 21 points in 24 minutes. The talented Iowa State freshman sank her first seven shots and also grabbed nine rebounds in that relatively short span during Sunday’s 105-68 romp past Troy at Hilton Coliseum — and those gaudy numbers only paint a partial portrait of her sky-high potential.

 “They started to bring double teams, triple teams, so then obviously somebody’s open,” said Crooks, who also drilled one of a season-best 16 3-pointers for the Cyclones (6-4). “And when you have shooters like these, they’re gonna knock ‘em down.”

 When Crooks said “these,” she nodded toward senior teammate Nyamer Diew, who drained a career-high six long-range shots en route to a 20-point day — and one of those 3-pointers came off a Crooks assist.

 “Some of those shots, I was wide-open,” Diew said. “It’s gonna get knocked down because that’s what I like to do.”

 Diew was even more thrilled to see her first-team All-Big 12 point guard Emily Ryan return to a standing ovation after she missed the first nine games because of a “health-related issue.”

 Ryan, ISU head coach Bill Fennelly said, was “on a pitch count.” She finished with five points and four rebounds in nine minutes.

 “Em has been working her way back,” said Diew, the only returning rotational player from last season’s Big 12 Tournament-winning team besides Ryan. “Just to see her get rewarded was good. She’s great. She’s a great person. She’s a great friend. She’s a great teammate. She’s a great captain. I enjoyed it. It was great. I’m happy she’s back.”

 So is Fennelly, who’s seen Ryan provide a steadying hand to his program for three-plus seasons, even as she navigated through missing time early in this one. 

 “The return to play protocol is very strict and very long-term and very much with the student-athlete in mind,” Fennelly said. “Emily’s fought it hard to play, probably to the point where they — every time they saw her come in the training room, they were getting a little, you know, ‘Oh, here she comes again.’ But that’s been the plan. They made the decision, I want to say, Thursday that we’ll see how she did in practice and then give her a chance to play. So it wasn’t really anything we really anticipated, but the way it went, and her choice, everybody talked about, ‘Does she want to redshirt?’ She doesn’t want to redshirt. She wants to play.”

 Addy Brown notched her fourth consecutive double-double for ISU with 13 points and 14 rebounds. She also added six assists and remains a triple-double waiting to happen.

 “I think it will (happen) eventually,” the freshman forward said earlier this week. “I’m not sure when, but I think it will.”

 Fellow freshman Jalynn Bristow added a career-high 17 points and four 3-pointers off the bench, helping the Cyclones finish 16-for-30 from beyond the arc. They also committed a season-high 18 turnovers, but that’s partly because the Trojans (1-7) applied pressure for all 40 minutes.

 “That’s what we talked about with our team, is we want to run press offense, not a press break,” Fennelly said. “We wanted to attack it to score.”

 Mission accomplished. And now ISU’s immediate plans expand with Ryan back to help players such as Crooks, Brown and Bristow fully develop.

 “She’ll bring a little bit of calm in those moments in the fourth quarter when things are loud or games are close,” Crooks said. “Just having that calming presence, that vocal leader on the floor, will be beneficial for us, for sure.”