Top Three Takeaways (Feb. 14 2024)

Heartland College Sports – An Independent Big 12 Today Blog

Here are three thoughts on Big 12 Conference women’s basketball on Wednesday, as there were five games on the Valentine’s Day schedule.

So what happened? Kansas State’s superstar returned and the Wildcats and the Iowa State Cyclones played an instant classic. Oklahoma grew its Big 12 lead and so much more.

Here are three thoughts on the day.

 

Wildcats, Cyclones, Instant Classic

Ayoka Lee returned for Kansas State on Wednesday. Reports started filtering out about an hour before the game with Iowa State that she was warming up. The Manhattan Mercury’s Zach DeLoach was among those that were able to confirm that she would start.

Lee had not played since Jan. 13 due to a small foot fracture that required surgery. At the time it was believed she would need four weeks to recover. Her timing was perfect.

Well, almost.

The Wildcats and Cyclones treated nearly 10,000 at Hilton Coliseum to an instant classic, with the Cyclones outlasting the Wildcats, 96-93, in double overtime.

In a game that was relatively evenly matched, two things stuck out for ISU. First, the Cyclones were 31-of-36 from the free throw line and could not miss down the stretch and in overtime. Emily Ryan was perfect (10-for-10). So was Addy Brown (8-for-8).

Iowa State outrebounded Kansas State, 47-39. That was with Lee playing 33 minutes. ISU freshman Audi Crooks (nine) had more rebounds than Lee (six).

You can’t say enough about Iowa State’s defense in the final minute of double overtime, either. With K-State needing a 3-pointer three different times, the Cyclones did a terrific job denying that and forcing the Wildcats to settle for easy lay-ups. Since ISU couldn’t miss at the free-throw line, the strategy was perfect.

Brown and Crooks each had 20 points. Ryan had 12 points, 12 assists and seven rebounds. Kelsey Joens added 13 and Isnelle Natabou had 10 points.

Lee had a solid game, finishing with 20 points. Her buzzer-beater sent the game to a second overtime. For a first game back, she was productive. But I doubt Kansas State coach Jeff Mittie wanted her to play that much. But sometimes that’s how the game goes.

Serena Sundell had 20 points and seven assists, while Brylee Glenn had 14 points, Gabby Gregory had 13 points and Gisela Sanchez added 10.

This was one of the best games of the season. If you watched it you got a treat.

Lee has five more games to get into full shape for the Big 12 Tournament. I feel confident she will. But the loss also drops the Wildcats two games back of Oklahoma in the standings. A regular season title might be out of reach.

Iowa State needed that kind of a win to bolster their NCAA Tournament credentials. A couple more of those and the Cyclones might just have what they need to turn what was supposed to be a rebuilding year into a March Madness kind of year.  

 

Sooners Stay on Top

Oklahoma make sure it would stay on top of the Big 12 standing with five games remaining as it defeated Baylor, 84-73, giving the Sooners a Top 25 win and their ninth straight game. The Sooners probably weren’t expecting to grow that lead. But now OU is two games clear of the field.

Payton Verhulst had a double-double for the Sooners, scoring 16 points and grabbing 11 rebounds. Kiersten Johnson had a career-high 20 points off the bench. Oklahoma put some distance between itself and Baylor with a 29-point third quarter.

Baylor’s Dre’Una Johnson had 13 points and four steals. Baylor’s Sarah Andrews bounced back with 14 points after a rough last week while Jana Van Gytenbeek added 13 off the bench.

The Sooners now have to go to West Virginia for another ranked matchup on Saturday. Win that game and the Sooners should take a big bump in next week’s AP poll, where they’re currently ranked No. 23.

 

The Rest of Wednesday’s Scores

Texas claimed an 82-66 win over Houston with freshman Madison Booker leading the way with 23 points. Laila Blair led Houston with 23 points. Oklahoma State went into Lubbock and stole a 60-50 win over the Texas Tech Lady Raiders. Stailee Heard had 16 points and nine rebounds for OSU, while Kilah Freelon had a double-double for TTU, with 10 points and 13 rebounds. Kansas defeated Cincinnati, 75-60. Taiyanna Jackson had 18 points, 13 rebounds and six blocked shots to lead Kansas. Cincinnati’s Jillian Hayes had a double-double — 15 points and 17 rebounds — as the Bearcats dropped to .500 for the season.

You can find Matthew Postins on Twitter @PostinsPostcard.