Live and die by the three could almost perfectly describe Iowa State’s offensive game plan against the Texas Tech Lady Raiders on Sunday afternoon.
A 13-for-26 three-point shooting performance (50%) for the Cyclones kept fans on the edge of their seat in the tight contest.
It seemed that every time the team got down, it could come right back.
But it ended up not being enough for Iowa State.
The Cyclones (15-10, 7-7 Big 12) came up short 74-77 to the Lady Raiders (16-9, 5-9 Big 12).
“Some of the things we struggle with we continue to struggle with like turnovers and scouting report defense,” Head Coach Bill Fennelly said.
The Cyclones committed 20 turnovers compared to the Lady Raiders’ 17.
And while the three-pointer was a major reason for Iowa State’s offensive success, it wasn’t that way the whole game for Iowa State.
Iowa State struggled shooting from the floor in the first quarter, going 4-for-16. It looked as if the team was out of its funk offensively, struggling to make open looks.
One of those players that had an off night for Iowa State was Ashley Joens. Joens shot an uncharacteristic 5-for-21 from the field. She still finished with 20 points though thanks to a 9-for-9 shooting performance from the free-throw line.
“I just want to get the ball to my open teammates to knock down open shots and creating opportunities for them,” Joens said.
Another huge reason for Iowa State’s struggles was Brittany Brewer. Brewer, standing at six foot, five inches, made the Cyclones pay extra attention to the post.
Brewer got it going for Texas Tech on offense, scoring 18 points in the first half. Her season average of 16 points per game ranks eighth in the Big 12 Conference. Brewer is also one of the country’s premier shot blockers. She swatted 7 of the Cyclones’ shots on the day. She ranks second in the nation in blocks with 104 (4.33 per game), which holds the Texas Tech school record.
Brewer went on to finish with 27 points and 10 rebounds in addition to the 7 blocks for the Red Raiders.
“She is going to score but defensively we told our kids when she is in space drive by her and score and when she is in the lane to kick it,” Fennelly said. “But we got in between on some possessions not moving sometimes.”
Despite the struggles, the Cyclones only trailed 33-36 heading into halftime.
The Lady Raiders boast the second leading scoring offense in the Big 12 at 78.50 points per game. Their ability to go on runs at any point during the game poses a threat. That was evident at many points during the game, especially at the end of the third quarter when an 8-0 run within the last minute and a half took their lead from one to nine.
But the Cyclones responded, cutting a once double-digit lead (59-49) at the start of the fourth quarter to a 63-63 tie with four and a half minutes remaining.
Multiple Cyclones contributed to the great shooting night that the team had but freshman Maggie Espenmiller-McGraw had some especially timely shots for the Cyclones. Espenmiller-McGraw sunk three three-point baskets within about two minutes in the second quarter. She finished with 14 points, including a 4-for-4 performance from beyond the arc. But she did commit 8 turnovers on the night.
“Unfortunately this is a tough league to learn on the job, you can’t turn the ball over 8 times and not defend, those are things she has to learn as she is playing,” Fennelly said. “But that is what we have, there’s not going to be any waiver pick-ups or trades before the end of March.”
The Cyclones and Red Raiders went back and forth for the entirety of the fourth quarter, all the way down to 1.3 seconds remaining.
It was at this point when Chrislyn Carr for Texas Tech went up for a three-point shot and was fouled by Rae Johnson.
Much of the Iowa State fan base did not like the call.
“I know you have to ask but I can’t comment on that,” Fennelly said.
Carr went on to make all three free throws and seal the deal for the Lady Raiders.
The win is Texas Tech’s first win in 18 years at Hilton over Iowa State.
“I’m really proud of our team and program as this is a signature win for our rebuild,” Texas Tech Head Coach Marlene Stallings said.
The last time the two met in Lubbock, Texas, Iowa State managed to win 96-66 thanks to 16-for-28 shooting night from the three-point line.
It was a similar shooting performance for the Cyclones tonight, but not the same result.
“We got two choices, feel sorry for yourself or get ready to play the next one,” Fennelly said.