Ames, Iowa — The No. 3 Iowa State Cyclones (28-6, 14-4 Big 12) beat the sixth-seeded University of Georgia Lady Bulldogs (21-10, 9-7 SEC) Basketball team, 67-44 in the second round of the NCAA Tournament at Hilton Coliseum on Sunday night.
This season was full of big expectations for the Iowa State women’s basketball team. The Cyclones are living up to their potential so far in the regular season that saw them gain single-season school records for wins and victories in the Big 12 Conference.
Iowa State advances to the Sweet 16 and will face Creighton in Greensboro, South Carolina next week. The win ends a long-awaited return with their first since 2010.
Ashley Joens jumped started an 11-0 Iowa State run in the opening three minutes as the Cyclones held the Lady Bulldogs scoreless until the five-minute mark. Georgia answered back with seven points, but Iowa State remained calm, ending the first quarter ahead, 23-7.
Despite an early three from freshman Reigan Richardson and Jenna Staiti scoring six of Georgia’s 11 second quarter points, Iowa State went into the locker room leading the Bulldogs, 37-18.
Iowa State struggled with their shooting during their close win over UT Arlington in the first round of the tournament and barely got passed its 14 seed opponent. But Sunday was an entirely different story. The Cyclones were firing on all cylinders during Sunday’s contest. Iowa State made five its first eight shots and began rolling from there.
“Georgia’s a really talented team and so it really all started on defense,” Iowa State guard Lexi Donarski said. “We had to set the tone, especially defensively, really early. And that just pushed us forward on offense.”
The Cyclones had already secured themselves as one of the best teams in school history by winning 25 games during the regular season, including 14 in Big 12 play to finish second in the conference. The only thing missing from their résumé was a big run in March. The Cyclones now have it. But there’s more work that can be done, with a Friday match against Creighton in Greensboro, North Carolina.
“What a night for them and what a well-deserved honor for that team,” Iowa State coach Bill Fennelly said.
The Cyclones didn’t slow down in the second half. Iowa State led by 19 at the end the third quarter and were pretty much on cruise control the rest of the game. Four different players scored in double figures for ISU.
Donarski finished with a game-high 20 points. Joens chipped in 12 points and 10 boards. Emily Ryan scored 15 points, six rebounds and nine assists. Morgan Kane tallied 10 points. The game got so out of control that Fennelly was able to empty his bench and have all of his starters check out to a standing ovation with under two minutes remaining left in the contest..
“I don’t know that I’ve ever wanted something professionally more in my life than to see these guys have that opportunity,” Fennelly said. “I thought they were phenomenal tonight on both ends of the floor. Sometimes in life, you earn things and you get it. Well, this group earned it and they got it.”
Graduate center Jenna Staiti led Georgia in both scoring and rebounds, with 16 points and nine boards. Guard Que Morrison followed with 10 points, while senior forward Malury Bates had six rebounds.
“Iowa State is a really good team, we knew that coming in,” said head coach Joni Taylor. “We played in a great environment tonight and you’ve got to give them credit, they did what they do well, and we didn’t have an answer.”