Game 5: No. 2 Iowa State (25-5, 14-4) vs. No. 7 West Virginia (15-14), 5 p.m. CT, Friday
Season series (Iowa State 2-0): Iowa State def. West Virginia, 88-72, in Ames, Iowa, on Jan. 2; Iowa State def. West Virginia, 74-57, in Morgantown, WV, on March 5.
Big 12 Tournament results: Iowa State: First game. West Virginia: def. TCU, 68-48.
Winner: faces the winner of Game 6 in the semifinals at 2:30 p.m. on Saturday.
Projected starting lineups
Iowa State: G Emily Ryan, G/F Ashley Joens, G Lexi Donarski, F Nyamer Diew, F Morgan Kane.
West Virginia: G Madisen Smith, F Esmery Martinez, G JJ Quinerly, F Kari Niblack, G Jayla Hemingway.
Players to watch
Iowa State G/F Ashley Joens: She’s basically already a legend in Ames. She passed Angie Welle earlier this season to become the leading scorer in Iowa State history with 2,261 career points going into the Big 12 Tournament. She’s also No. 4 in ISU history with 1,025 career rebounds. Joens earned selection to the Heartland College Sports All-Big 12 First Team after helped the Cyclones to a Top 10 national ranking. She leads the team with 20 points and 9.2 rebounds per game, shot a career-best 37.2 percent from the 3-point line and a career-best 2.2 assists per game. She’s once again a finalist for the Cheryl Miller Award, which she won last year.
West Virginia F Esmery Martinez: The junior was the only Mountaineer to earn All-Big 12 Second Team honors earlier this week. With the injury to KK Deans, more of the offense fell to Martinez. Martinez averaged 11.1 points and 8.8 rebounds per game this season, and saw those averages change to 10.5 points and 9.1 rebounds in 17 Big 12 games. She was a Big 12 Second-Team selection for the second year in a row. Against TCU she finished with nine points and six rebounds. But WVU cruised to that win. The Mountaineers will need Martinez to be her more dominant self on Friday.
Iowa State: The Cyclones enter the Big 12 Tournament as the No. 2 seed. With Joens leading the way, the Cyclones have beaten seven Big 12 teams twice, with the exceptions being Baylor and Texas. But the Cyclones are more than just Joens. Guard Emily Ryan was part of the HCS Second Team and while improving her scoring ability, at various points she set ISU records for most steals and assists in a game. Lexi Donarski still lit it up from the 3-point line and was named the Big 12 Defensive Player of the Year. With those three leading the charge, the Cyclones are trying to win their first Big 12 Tournament title since 2001.
West Virginia: The Mountaineers are trying to make any kind of case it can for postseason action, whether it be in the NCAA Tournament or the WNIT. With three wins in their last four games, the Mountaineers are now ensured of having no worse than a .500 overall record when decision time comes around. But, West Virginia’s expectations were higher after coming off an NCAA Tournament berth last season, powered by No. 3 overall WNBA Draft pick Kysre Gondrezick. West Virginia spent the season on the periphery of being a .500 team all season, and the loss of Deans to injury midway through Big 12 play didn’t help matters. But the rise of freshman JJ Quinerly helped the Mountaineers win three of their final four games, and a win in Kansas City could help them snag a berth in the WNIT. Watch Madisen Smith, who had 19 points against TCU on Thursday night.
Iowa State has not won the Big 12 Tournament since 2001, which was the second of its back-to-back titles.
Iowa State 68, West Virginia 61. This game has the potential to be close. It depends on how much offense the Mountaineers can muster early. If they let the Cyclones run away and hide, they’ll never catch them.
You can find Matthew Postins on Twitter @PostinsPostcard.