The Iowa State Cyclones are in the Sweet 16 after defeating the Georgia Bulldogs, 67-44, in the second round of the NCAA Women’s Tournament at Hilton Coliseum in Ames, Iowa, on Sunday.
The No. 3-seeded Cyclones (28-6) are headed to the Sweet 16 for the first time since 2010. The potentially highly-anticipated matchup with in-state rival Iowa won’t happen, though. The Hawkeyes lost to Creighton earlier on Sunday, meaning that the Cyclones will face the Bluejays in the Greensboro Region on Friday.
The Cyclones’ victory came about an hour after the Cyclone men defeated Wisconsin in the NCAA Men’s Tournament to secure their own berth in the Sweet 16. The men and women both reached the Sweet 16 in 2000, with the women falling in round of 16 and the men falling in the Elite Eight.
Iowa State also became the second Big 12 women’s team to clinch a berth in the Sweet 16 on Sunday. Texas defeated Utah to become the first. Baylor, a No. 2 seed, fell to South Dakota in one of the biggest upsets of the women’s tournament.
Unlike their first-round game against UT-Arlington, in which the Cyclones were pushed to the limit before finally winning, the Cyclones came out in the first half against Georgia like a freight train.
Iowa State scored the first 11 points of the game, was up 23-7 at the end of the first quarter and ended up with a 37-18 halftime lead. And, unlike the first-round game, Ashley Joens wasn’t the focal point of the offense.
Instead it was guards Emily Ryan and Lexi Donarski who carried the Cyclones in the first half. Ryan had 13 points on 5-of-9 shooting by halftime, including a pair of 3-pointers. Donarski had 11 points, with three 3-pointers. The Big 12 Defensive Player of the Year helped the Cyclones set a tone on the defensive end, too, as she, Ryan and Joens all played the first 20 minutes.
Georgia was never in it after halftime. One of women’s college basketball’s most consistent programs was seeking its 21st Sweet 16 appearance. Instead, the Bulldogs watched the Cyclones celebrate their first Sweet 16 berth in 12 years on their home floor in front of a near-packed house.
By game’s end Donarski was the Cyclones’ leading scorer with 20 points. She had four 3-pointers for the game and was a perfect 6-for-6 from the free-throw line. Ryan ended up with 15 points, including a pair of 3-pointers, with six rebounds, nine assists and three steals. Forward Morgan Kane kicked in 10 points and six rebounds.
Joens, in what may have been her last game at Hilton Coliseum, finished with 12 points, 10 rebounds and three steals, two nights after she carried the Cyclones with 36 points and 15 rebounds against UTA. Joens, a senior, hasn’t decided if she is going to use her COVID-19 season of eligibility or call it a career, which would likely mean heading to the WNBA. Whatever her decision, she is Iowa State’s all-time leading scorer.
Jenna Staiti, Georgia’s star center, had 16 points and nine rebounds. Guard Que Morrison added 10 points. The Bulldogs shot less than 30 percent for the game.
You can find Matthew Postins on Twitter @PostinsPostcard.