MORGANTOWN, W.Va. (AP) — Iowa State coach Bill Fennelly isn’t going to cringe about Ashley Joens’ mini-slump, especially with Emily Ryan playing her best.
Ryan scored a career-high 29 points and No. 8 Iowa State clinched the second seed in the Big 12 women’s tournament with a 74-57 victory over West Virginia on Saturday night.
The Cyclones (25-5, 14-4 Big 12) bounced back from a blowout loss at home to No. 5 Baylor on Monday that handed the Bears a share of their 12th consecutive regular-season title. Baylor can earn it outright Sunday with a victory against Texas Tech. A Baylor loss would give Iowa State a share of the championship for the first time since 2000.
“Really, really proud of our team,” Fennelly said. “To come on the road and play a team like this the way we did tonight after kind of what we did on Monday against Baylor was great.”
Ryan scored 15 points in the third quarter, hitting all five of her field goal attempts, and the Cyclones extended a six-point halftime lead to 55-38. West Virginia got no closer than nine points the rest of the game.
For the game, Ryan made 10 of 12 shots.
“She got downhill. She did a good job,” said West Virginia coach Mike Carey. “I’ll just leave it at that.”
Ryan, a sophomore, eclipsed her previous high of 22 points set at Oklahoma on Jan. 5. She had averaged 13 points over her previous eight games.
“Emily Ryan was incredible, and on a night we really needed her,” Fennelly said. “She’s not going to wow you with her athleticism, but her basketball IQ is incredible.”
Joens, the Cyclones’ all-time leading scorer who is averaging 20.3 points this season, had 12 points — one off her season low — and nine rebounds. Lexi Donarski added 11 points.
Joens, who is shooting 42% from the floor for the season, went 2 of 10 against West Virginia and is 6 of 29 (20.7%) over her last two games. Her two field goals Saturday were the fewest she’s made all season.
Fennelly didn’t give her star’s off week a second thought.
“I’m not concerned at all,” Fennelly said. “She shot a couple under 50%, but when you’ve scored as many points as she’s scored and you’ve seen every defense known to man, I’m not concerned one bit.”
Madisen Smith scored 11 points and Savannah Samuel added 10 for the Mountaineers (14-14, 7-11).
Iowa State had six turnovers in the first five minutes of the game and trailed 7-2. West Virginia clogged the lane on defense and Iowa State’s Morgan Kane and Beatriz Jordao picked up two quick fouls apiece to set the tone for a physical game inside.
Fennelly said he scrapped his game plan and went to more simple plays to dribble the ball into the lane. The Cyclones outscored West Virginia 21-5 from the line.
“We told them to put your head down, attack the basket and try and get the free throw-line as quickly as we could,” Fennelly said. “Getting to the free-throw line was paramount for us.”
Ryan hit a 3-pointer and a layup 42 seconds apart to give Iowa State the lead for good a minute before halftime. Joens didn’t get off her first shot attempt until early in the second quarter. She went 1 of 5 in the first half, including a 3-pointer that gave the Cyclones a 34-28 halftime lead.
Iowa State: With the top seed in the conference tournament out of reach after being swept by Baylor, the Cyclones set a school record for Big 12 wins in a season, breaking the mark of 13 set in the 1999-00 and 2018-19 seasons. Iowa State won for just the third time in 10 tries in Morgantown.
West Virginia: The Mountaineers saw their three-game winning streak snapped. Kari Niblack, a senior playing in her final home game, went down hard chasing a loose ball early in the second quarter. She got up favoring her right leg and hobbled to the locker room. She did not return.
“It’s a shame. Senior night. Her family was here,” Carey said. “We decided just to hold her out. It wasn’t worth it.”
The Cyclones open play in the conference tournament Friday in Kansas City, Missouri. West Virginia is the No. 7 seed and will play in the opening round Thursday night. These teams could meet again if the Mountaineers win their opening-round game.
More AP women’s college basketball: https://apnews.com/hub/womens-college-basketball and https://apnews.com/hub/ap-top-25-womens-college-basketball-poll and https://twitter.com/AP_Top25