Iowa State falls to top-ranked Baylor in the finals of the Big 12 Tournament

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Iowa State coach Bill Fennelly talks about his team’s close call with Baylor
Tommy Birch, tbirch@dmreg.com

OKLAHOMA CITY, Okla. — In Iowa State coach Bill Fennelly’s mind, there were two things that needed to happen for the Cyclones to do the impossible and knock off top-ranked Baylor: The Cyclones needed to play near flawless basketball and they needed to get some help from Baylor, which had to struggle a little. The Cyclones got both things Monday night.

But even that wasn’t enough.

Second-seed Iowa State hung with top-seed Baylor for most of the night. But Fennelly’s recipe for success only got the Cyclones that far before falling to the Lady Bears 67-49 in the finals of the Big 12 Tournament at the Chesapeake Energy Arena on Monday night.

Iowa State star Bridget Carleton gears up for the NCAA Tournament
Tommy Birch, tbirch@dmreg.com

“It was exciting to be in that game going into the fourth quarter,” said Iowa State star Bridget Carleton. “Obviously, Baylor has a great team and they’re hard to compete with.”

Baylor used an 8-0 run in the first quarter to take an 18-6 lead. But Iowa State didn’t go away. The Cyclones scored the final seven points of the first quarter and used a 12-0 run to get back into it.

Middleton, who connected on her first four shots of the game, buried a 3-pointer from the top of the key to tie the game 18-18.

But Iowa State’s shooting went cold again. The Cyclones mustered together just two field goals in the final seven minutes of the first half.

Meanwhile, Baylor went another 8-0 run to take control of the game and take a 30-25 lead into halftime.

Baylor never could pull away, though. Iowa State kept answering every run by the Lady Bears.

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A layup by Carleton with 5:15 left to play tied the game 37-37. Then, with 3:09 left, Carleton connected on a jumper to tie the game again 41-41.

Baylor answered back with a 5-0 run to reclaim the lead. The closest Iowa State got to Baylor after that was on Middleton’s basket late in the third quarter.

“We gave ourselves a chance, but Baylor’s defense was great,” Fennelly said.

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Middleton finished with a team-high 18 points. Carleton added 13. But it wasn’t enough for the 19th-ranked Cyclones who couldn’t keep up with Baylor in the final quarter. Iowa State shot just 2-10 from the field in the fourth quarter and was outscored by the Lady Bears 19-5.

“Their defense was really good in the fourth quarter,” Middleton said. “We weren’t able to execute like we wanted to.”

And even though Iowa State’s ride through the Big 12 Tournament came to an end, its season likely isn’t over. The Cyclones not only are likely headed to the NCAA Tournament, but after their impressive run during the Big 12 Tournament run, they’ve likely assured themselves a shot at hosting the first two rounds.

“This team is tremendous to be around — and the best part is, we get to play again and I get to keep coaching them for a little bit longer,” Fennelly said. “I’m not looking forward to the end, but we’re going to celebrate what we’re doing right now.”

Source: Des Moines Register