The Big 12 Conference hit Week 3 of its 2021-22 women’s basketball season last week. Just some of the things that happened last week:
How the Big 12 women may benefit from the NCAA Tournament’s recent expansion.
The Big 12 Basketball Tracker has Iowa State’s Ashley Joens moving up to No. 5 all-time in Iowa State scoring.
That, and so much more, happened in Week 3. Since it was a holiday weekend, we have five takeaways this week.
The other ‘Joens’ at Iowa State
Ashley Joens is well on her way to rewriting the Cyclones’ all-time scoring record book. But her younger sister, Audrey, is showing accelerated improvement in her second year in Ames.
The Cyclones won the title at the Gulf Coast Showcase. Audrey Joens, a 5-foot-8 guard, showed flashes last season, averaging five points per game and shooting 34 percent from the arc.
Well, through seven games this season, Audrey Joens is averaging 13.4 points per game and is shooting 47.4 percent from the 3-point line. She’s already had a pair of 21-point performances this season. Her 3-point percentage is second-best in the Big 12, and her 27 made 3-pointers is second only to Oklahoma’s Taylor Robertson.
This gives the Cyclones a third consistent scoring option to go along with Ashley Joens (20.3 points per game) and Lexi Donarski (16.6 points per game). Emily Ryan is running a quality point (41 assists in seven games) and still averages nearly 10 points per game. The Cyclones have seven players averaging at least seven points per game.
This week’s game with LSU on the road offers the Cyclones a good chance to pass a test against a coach that knows them quite well — former Baylor and current LSU head coach Kim Mulkey.
The Tournament Haul
Iowa State wasn’t the only one to win a holiday tournament title this past weekend. Baylor did the same thing in Cancun, defeating defeated Fordham, 68-45, Arizona State, 62-52, and Houston, 74-58, to win the Challenge. It was a hot-knife-through-butter performance for the Bears, and a nice bounce-back from the close loss to highly-ranked Maryland a week ago.
While NaLyssa Smith, Jordan Lewis and Queen Egbo have formed a nice trio in the starting lineup, the Bears are getting nice contributions from Sarah Andrews, who is averaging 9.6 points and nearly as many assists (31) as Lewis (32). Andrews is growing into a solid second guard option who can shoot, handle the ball and play good defense (a team-leading nine steals). Andrews has doubled her scoring average from last season and remains a near 40-percent 3-point shooter.
A Bigger Big 12 Presence in March
The NCAA announced earlier this month that the women’s NCAA Tournament would expand to 68 teams, just like the men’s tournament, which means there will be a ‘First Four’ in the women’s tournament for the first time.
ESPN’s first women’s bracketology had seven Big 12 teams in the field. That would match the number of Big 12 men’s team that reached the tournament last year. The field expansion could be of significant benefit for the entire league. It’s early, but eight of the league’s 10 teams have one loss or fewer.
Kansas State and Oklahoma were the biggest beneficiaries, as both missed the women’s tournament last year. This will be exciting to track as the season progresses, because the league looks good enough to put at least six teams in the tournament this season.
The 20-10 Club
Averaging a double-double in college basketball is hard. Doing it while averaging 20 points per game is even harder.
The Big 12 has two players doing it at the same time through nearly a month of the season.
Baylor’s NaLyssa Smith is averaging 20.6 points and 13.4 rebounds per game. Kansas State’s Ayoka Lee is averaging 24.7 points and 11.3 rebounds per game.
That made me curious as to how many other players were averaging at least 20 points and at least 10 rebounds per game on a national level.
There are just two others — Michigan’s Naz Hillmon (21.8 points and 10 rebounds per game), and Virginia Tech’s Elizabeth Kitley (20.6 points and 10.3 rebounds per game)
So, right now, the Big 12 is the only conference with two players averaging at least 20 points and 10 rebounds per game. Plus, Iowa State’s Ashley Joens (20.3 points and 9.3 rebounds per game) isn’t far off from making it three.
It’s Big 12-SEC Challenge Week
All of the Big 12-SEC Challenge games will be this week, including the aforementioned Iowa-State-LSU game.
On Wednesday, West Virginia is at Kentucky.
On Thursday, Texas Tech hosts Georgia, the same day as the ISU-LSU game.
On Saturday, Oklahoma hosts Mississippi State and Baylor hosts Missouri.
On Sunday, TCU hosts Florida, Oklahoma State travels to Auburn, Kansas hosts Vanderbilt and Texas travels to Texas A&M.
Kansas State faces No. 1 South Carolina on Friday. The Wildcats have already played a Top 5 team this season in NC State, with the Wolfpack winning, 90-69.
You can find Matthew Postins on Twitter @PostinsPostcard.
**Want to win a $20 gift card? Go sign up here and join our conversation! The best poster each week wins a gift card to your favorite establishment!**