KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP)Ashley Joens had 28 points and 10 rebounds to lead Iowa State to a 62-51 victory over No. 15 Texas in the Big 12 Conference Tournament championship on Sunday for the Cyclones’ first postseason title since 2001 and an NCAA Tournament bid.
Joens, the 2022-23 Big 12 Player of the Year, was named the tournament’s Most Outstanding Player. She was joined on the all-tournament team by Shaylee Gonzales, Rori Harmon and DeYona Gaston of Texas, Lexi Donarski of Iowa State and Skylar Vann of Oklahoma.
“To be able to play with this team and these coaches, that’s as good as it gets,” Jones said after the game.
This was the final Big 12 women’s championship to be played at Municipal Auditorium, and it occurred in front of a predominantly pro-Iowa State crowd. The tournament will move to Kansas City’s T-Mobile Center beginning next year. The T-Mobile Center has hosted the Big 12 men’s championship every year since 2010.
“These are moments they’re going to remember,” Iowa State coach Bill Fennelly said. “It’s not just winning. They’ll remember what this environment was like their whole life. We beat a great team, and it was a great three days for us.”
Donarski and Morgan Kane scored 9 points apiece for Iowa State (22-9), which won its third Big 12 Tournament title.
Texas (25-9) was led by Gonzales and Taylor Jones with 12 points each.
Joens scored 10 points in the third quarter to help Iowa State grab its largest lead of the game at 47-39. Nyamer Diew hit a 3-pointer just before the buzzer to give the Cyclones the 8-point lead.
“She takes 20 shots and made eight of them, but it’s what they put around her. You can’t bring any help,” Texas coach Vic Schaefer said when asked what makes Joens so hard to guard. “Those kids can all shoot it. That allows her to do some one-on-one stuff. It works for them.”
After Texas scored the first two points of the fourth quarter, Iowa State went on a 9-0 run to open a 15-point lead and send the crowd into a frenzy.
Much like they did in their quarterfinal victory over Kansas State, when they started 2 of 20 from the field, the Longhorns struggled to score in the early going. They hit just two of their first 14 shots against Iowa State. But Iowa State struggled as well, and the Cyclones led only 7-4 at the first-quarter media timeout. The Cyclones led 14-11 at the end of the quarter.
Joens hit a bucket with 3 seconds to go in the first half, trimming the Texas lead to 27-26. She led all scorers with 13 first-half points, half her team’s total. No other Cyclones player had more than 4 points.
Texas was more balanced. The Longhorns had four players with at least 5 points, led by Gonzales with 7.
Iowa State: The Cyclones will go as far as Joens takes them in the NCAA Tournament. She is a legitimate star. There were several WNBA scouts in the crowd watching her.
Texas: The Longhorns will need to shake off this effort heading into the NCAA Tournament. Missing two-thirds of their shots will make it hard to advance deep in the tournament.
Iowa State: As the automatic qualifier from the Big 12, the Cyclones wait to find out their seeding and who they will face in the NCAA Tournament field.
Texas: The Longhorns also wait to see where the selection committee places them. They are projected to be a top-five seed.
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