Big 12 Women’s Tournament Championship: Texas vs. Iowa State Preview
Here is everything you need to know about Texas and Iowa State in our Longhorns vs. Cyclones Big 12 Tournament women’s basketball tournament championship preview.
Championship: No. 1 Texas (25-8) vs. No. 3 Iowa State (21-9) 1 p.m. CT, ESPN2
Season series (Tied 1-1): Texas def. Iowa State, 68-53, in Austin, Texas, on Jan. 15; Iowa State def. Texas, 66-61, in Ames, Iowa, on Feb. 13.
Big 12 Tournament results: Texas: def. No. 9 Kansas State, 60-42 (quarterfinal); def. No. 4 Oklahoma State, 64-57 (semifinal); Iowa State: def. No. 6 Baylor, 74-63 (quarterfinal); def. No. 2 Oklahoma, 82-72 (semifinal).
Winner gets: The Big 12’s automatic berth into the NCAA Tournament.
Projected starting lineups
Texas: F Khadija Faye, F DeYona Gaston, G Rori Harmon, G Shay Holle, G Shaylee Gonzalez
Iowa State: G Ashley Joens, G Lexi Donarski, G Emily Ryan, G Denae Fritz, F Morgan Kane.
Players to watch
G Rori Harmon: It all starts with Harmon, who was an All-Big 12 First Team guard and named by the Big 12 coaches as the Defensive Player of the Year. She is one of the best all-around players in the conference, capable of scoring, passing, rebounding and defending. She runs head coach Vic Schaefer’s offense to near perfection.
Going into the Big 12 Tournament she was averaging 11.9 points, 5.0 rebounds and 7.3 assists. She also averages 2.3 steals per game. Her high-quality, well-rounded game is, at times, not recognized the way it should be outside the league.
On Saturday against Oklahoma State, she scored 11 points, dished out 10 assists and grabbed seven rebounds. She is the first player in Big 12 Tournament history to have at least 10 points, 10 assists and five rebounds in a game.
G Lexi Donarski: Yes, the Cyclones need a big game from their super-senior guard/forward Ashley Joens, but they also need someone to complement her. The offense hums when it’s Donarski, the junior guard who can be as deadly as Joens from distance and plays some of the best defense in the conference. Entering Saturday’s game she was averaging 11.9 points per game and shooting just 37.2 percent from the floor (31 percent from the 3-point line). In the quarterfinal win over Baylor, she scored only six points and shot 22 percent from the floor.
But on Saturday against Oklahoma, Donarski complemented Joens’ 22 points nicely. Donarski scored 20 points and made all three of her 3-point attempts in 35 minutes. This is the Donarski the Cyclones need on Sunday — and in the NCAA Tournament.
Texas came into the season with high expectations, fueled by winning the Big 12 Tournament and reaching the Elite Eight last season. Texas also imported a quartet of transfers that they expected to make a significant impact. Some of them, such as Shaylee Gonzales, have. Others, like Taylor Jones and Sonya Morris, have battled injuries this season. Harmon, who was banged up to start the season, has been consistent through it all. But the elevation of forward DeYona Gaston’s game throughout the season and moving Shay Holle back into the starting lineup for the injured Sonya Morris, sparked a month-plus surge that helped Texas share the Big 12 Championship with Oklahoma and earned the No. 1 seed in Kansas City.
It may look like Texas blew out Kansas State, but the game was tied at 18 at halftime and Texas was shooting less than 20 percent. Gaston, naturally, was the one that picked the Longhorns up, scoring 13 points. But Texas can’t have that kind of start again. Oklahoma State was a game Texas controlled throughout and scored 21 points off of Cowgirl turnovers, which was the defining factor in that game. Watch Holle on the perimeter. She’s starting to heat up her outside shot.
While the Cyclones have had a good season, it could have been great. On Jan. 8, the Cyclones lost center Stephanie Soares to a torn ACL. The 6-foot-6 center was supposed to be a differentiator for the Cyclones, and she was. When she was hurt, she was averaging a double-double. That turned the Cyclones’ upside down, as they had to revert back to the way they played a season ago when they reached the Sweet 16. It’s been a bumpy road to get the No. 3 seed in Kansas City, but they won four of their last six heading into the tournament.
Iowa State’s game with Baylor, a 74-63 win, was paced by Joens. But, guard Emily Ryan had a fine game, scoring 15 points. Morgan Kane added 10 points. Against Oklahoma, the Cyclones won the rubber match behind Joens, who had 22 points, along with Donarski’s 20. Nyamer Diew had a big game off the bench, as she scored 19 points and made four 3-pointers.
Texas 65, Iowa State 64. The way Texas has played defense the past two games it overcomes any shortcomings offensively. Jones could go off for 30, and if she does that changes the game. But, the Longhorns should do just enough to defend their Big 12 Tournament title.
You can find Matthew Postins on Twitter @PostinsPostcard.