AMES, Iowa — Baylor coach Kim Mulkey threw herself on the scorer’s table in disbelief after the whistle blew.
Less than one second remained in Sunday’s tenser-than-usual Big 12 season finale at Iowa State. Her No. 2 Lady Bears were locked in a 56-56 tie.
Didi Richards had been whistled for the foul — and Cyclones star Ashley Joens went to the free throw line, hitting the first of two shots to give Iowa State a 57-56 win that snapped Baylor’s record 58-game Big 12 regular-season winning streak. It was the sixth longest in NCAA history.
“You would have liked to see that go overtime,” said Mulkey, whose team (28-2, 17-1 Big 12) lost its first conference game since a Feb. 6, 2017 setback at Texas. “But I haven’t seen it. Doesn’t matter if she fouled or didn’t foul. It was called, you live with it, you move on.”
Iowa State (18-11, 10-8) took a 56-53 lead on Joens’ layup with 37 seconds left. Juicy Landrum tied the game 14 seconds later with a 3-pointer.
After timeouts by both teams, Joens drove to the basket with less than a second left and drew the foul on Richards. After the officials reviewed that there was still time on the clock, Joens hit the first of the two to give the Cyclones their first win this season against a ranked team.
“Didn’t really think about it,” said Joens, who scored a team-high 15 points. “Just got up there and told myself, just like in practice, and it went in.”
Mulkey, whose team’s only other loss this season came against No. 1 South Carolina in November in a Thanksgiving tournament, said the Lady Bears don’t talk about streaks. They’ll simply try to start another one. Sunday marked the end of a long string of conference success, but few will dwell on that if Baylor puts itself in position to win a second straight national title.
“You’re in the moment, you just don’t really play to say, ‘OK, we’ve got to extend the streak, we’ve got to go undefeated,'” Mulkey said. “You just want to win the next game. It’s not going to take away from the fact we won the Big 12 championship. Now we’ve got to fight the conference tournament and then from there, we go to the NCAA tournament.
Joens shot 3 of 18 from the field while being shadowed by 6-foot-4 Baylor standout Lauren Cox, but drained 3 of 4 free throws in the second half — including the biggest one of her career.
“Every single person who’s associated with our team was really relaxed because it was [Joens] up there shooting the free throw,” Iowa State coach Bill Fennelly said. “She was smiling. Maggie [Espenmiller-McGraw] and Rae [Johnson] were acting like we’d already won the game. She has that kind of confidence and her teammates have that kind of confidence in her.”
Ines Nezerwa and Johnson each had 11 points for the Cyclones, who sank 8 of their 10 3-pointers in the second half.
“Make this all about Iowa State,” Mulkey said. “Don’t make this about what Baylor didn’t do. Make it about what Iowa State did. And give those kids kudos, give ’em props, give ’em everything.”
Richards scored 15 points and Cox added 11 points and 10 rebounds for the Lady Bears, who narrowly missed going 18-0 in Big 12 play for the third-straight season.
“When you beat, in my opinion, the best team in the country, I’m sure people who are looking at scroll are going to go, ‘We’ve got to wait until it comes around [again], because nobody’s going to believe that,'” Fennelly said.
Baylor: Cox had six of the Lady Bears’ 11 blocked shots — giving her 301 in her career. Baylor also saw its 44-game regular season Big 12 road winning streak snapped, which was a conference record and third longest in NCAA history. The Lady Bears led by as many as eight points, but Iowa State’s 8-0 run early in the third quarter erased that and set the stage for the stunning upset.
Iowa State: The Cyclones mixed up their defenses to hold Baylor to its second-lowest field goal percentage in Big 12 play this season (41%). Iowa State — which was on the tournament bubble after a three-game losing skid — have all but locked up a berth with three straight wins.
Iowa State’s Jade Thurmon — who averages 13 minutes per game — started her ninth game alongside fellow seniors Adriana Camber, Nezerwa and Nia Washington. She finished with nine points, which is twice per scoring average, and helped the Cyclones set a tone early while playing Baylor to a 10-10 tie midway through the first quarter.
Baylor: Plays the winner of the Iowa State-Kansas State game in the Big 12 tournament on Saturday.
Iowa State: Plays Kansas State in the Big 12 tournament on Friday.
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