Iowa State women defeat Kansas, advance to Big 12 Tournament semifinals

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Bill Fennelly on his team advancing to the semifinals of the Big 12 Tournament
Tommy Birch, tbirch@dmreg.com

OKLAHOMA CITY, Okla. — It has been a season of milestones for the Iowa State women’s basketball team.

The Cyclones matched a school record with 25 regular season wins, tied a school mark with 13 Big 12 Conference victories, and finished second in league play for the first time since the 2012-13 season.

On Saturday, they added to that list of accomplishments by advancing to the semifinals of the Big 12 Tournament for the first time since 2013.

The No. 19 Cyclones did it by defeating Kansas 75-58 in the quarterfinals at Chesapeake Energy Arena. Iowa State, the No. 2 seed, will play Sunday at 4:30 p.m.

“This group, I keep telling them, you’re writing your own book and each chapter, there’s a new thing to check off,” said Iowa State coach Bill Fennelly. “For some people, it’s not a big deal but for this group to be in the semifinals and to be able to showcase our university, how they play (Sunday) night on a national stage in a phenomenal venue and phenomenal conference tournament, that’s why they play and that’s why we coach.”

Bridget Carleton scored a team-high 18 points for Iowa State. Kristin Scott added 15 points for the Cyclones. That was fairly normal for the Cyclones, who have constantly received big scoring outputs from the two this season.

The surprise Saturday was Madison Wise. The sophomore poured in 15 points and grabbed 10 rebounds, helping the Cyclones overcome a slow start in the first quarter. 

“That’s unbelievable,” Carleton said of Wise’s performance.

The Cyclones needed it early on. Iowa State struggled to get its footing early, shooting just 4 of 13 from the field in the first quarter. They surrendered an 8-0 run to the Jayhawks who took a 12-11 lead after the first quarter.

But thanks to Wise, the Cyclones got on track. She connected on her first six shots, including a 3-pointer that jumpstarted a 10-0 run for Iowa State that gave the Cyclones a 21-14 lead in the second quarter. Wise added a layup as part of a 7-0 run to close out the half for the Cyclones, who took a 30-20 lead into the break.

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Bridget Carleton talks about the big game Madison Wise had in the quarterfinals of the Big 12 Tournament.
Tommy Birch, tbirch@dmreg.com

It was by far the best performance of the season for Wise, who had struggled to shoot at times and instead was leaned on to provide steady defense. Against the Jayhawks, she provided both.

In the second half, Wise got more help. The Cyclones picked up right where they left off, scoring the first six points of the quarter and building up a 36-20 lead on a layup by Scott. The lead grew to as many as 27 when Carleton connected on a layup with 22 seconds left in the third.

Kansas didn’t go away quietly. The Jayhawks rattled off a 12-0 run in the fourth quarter to get within 12 of the Cyclones. Carleton ended the run and any hopes the Jayhawks had of a comeback with a trey at the top of the key.

“Kansas, to their credit, like always, kept coming at us,” Fennelly said.

But Iowa State kept answering and added another big moment to its already big season. 

“I think it’s a pretty big statement, especially for our seniors,” Wise said. “They mean a lot to this program and they’ve really left a legacy.” 

But there’s still work to be done and milestones left to be accomplished. With a win Sunday, the Cyclones have a chance to advance to the tournament final for the first time since 2013. That run ended with a loss to Baylor.

Carleton said the Cyclones are focused on what they can accomplish, not what they already have.

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“I think we put ourselves in a really good position coming into this tournament,” Carleton said. “We’ve got one down. We want to do as much as we can and have no regrets and give it our all for the next couple of games because we know the end of the season is in sight. We never know when our last chance will be.”  

Source: Des Moines Register