Iowa State guard Emily Ryan (11) reaches for the ball against Texas Tech in a Big 12 basketball game, Wednesday, Jan. 17, 2024, at United Supermarkets Arena. © Annie Rice/Avalanche-Journal / USA TODAY NETWORK
First, the good news for Iowa State: The 24th-ranked Cyclones didn’t even need to suit up to notch their sixth straight Big 12 Conference win.
Now, the bad news: When ISU actually got to play a game, it suffered its first league setback of the season, 71-63, to Texas Tech in Lubbock.
But how did all of that happen? TCU announced Wednesday that because of a wave of injuries, it would forfeit each of its games this week, including one slated for Saturday against the Cyclones (12-5, 6-1) at Hilton Coliseum. Then the Lady Raiders (14-5, 3-3) sank a season-high 13 3-pointers Wednesday evening to record their first win over a ranked team since they toppled Texas, 68-64, on Jan. 18, 2023.
“I thought we played hard tonight,” ISU head coach Bill Fennelly said on the Cyclone Radio Network after the game. “I really did. We did not play well. We did not coach well, but we were hanging around, but we just couldn’t get that next play that during the winning streak, we were making that one more play.”
ISU battled back from an early nine-point deficit to take a 29-27 lead on star senior point guard Emily Ryan’s 3-point basket with 1:32 left in the first half, but Texas Tech’s Bailey Maupin answered by converting a four-point play and then drilling a buzzer-beating 3-pointer to give her team a 34-29 lead at the break.
(Those) were good plays by a really good player,” Fennelly said.
Ryan scored a season-high 18 points in a season-high 31 minutes for ISU, which trailed by as many as 14 points in the second half, but pulled within six, at 69-63, on Kelsey Joens’ two free throws with 36 seconds left. Tech’s Jasmine Shavers then went 2-for-2 from the line to essentially seal the Cyclones’ first loss in league play.
“We’re not gonna take any day we can get better for granted,” Ryan said of the team’s immediate response to its initial conference setback. “So we’re gonna show up (to practice on Thursday) with the same energy we had coming off of a couple wins. That’s the only thing you can do, is show up and just try to win the day.”
Freshman center Audi Crooks added 14 points and a career-high 12 rebounds and senior guard Hannah Belanger chipped in 11 points for the Cyclones. Freshman forward Jalynn Bristow scored 10 points and didn’t miss a shot in her first game for ISU in her home state.
“It was really just having a clear head, going out there and playing,” Bristow said of her performance.
TCU’s forfeit ensured ISU would match the 1999-2000 team for the best start in a Big 12 season in program history, even if there is an asterisk attached.
“I’m just heartbroken that our kids don’t get to play at home (on Saturday), and our fans don’t get to see a home game,” Fennelly said. “This whole thing is borderline ridiculous, but again, I don’t have a say in it. There won’t be a game Saturday, so we’ve gotta figure out what we’re gonna do.”
That plan will likely mirror what Ryan sketched out: Go back to work, improve, and treat each practice like a game. The Cyclones won’t play again until next Wednesday at Kansas and then the following Saturday at No. 24 West Virginia.
“That’s this league,” Fennelly said. “If you think you’re gonna go through and win every game you’re out of your mind. But at the same time, you want to compete and give yourself a chance. We competed. We did not play well and we did not shoot well. That’s the nature of basketball. Hopefully, we’ll go home and figure out some things.”