The Baylor Lady Bears had head coach Kim Mulkey back on the bench and a nine-player roster ready for battle against Iowa State.
But the Cyclones were the ones celebrating at the end of the night.
Iowa State star forward Ashley Joens scored 27 points and led her team to a 75-71 victory over Baylor on Saturday night at the Ferrell Center.
In doing so, the unranked Cyclones snapped the Lady Bears’ 61-game home winning streak. Iowa State also grabbed its second straight victory over Baylor after defeating the Big 12 conference champs in Ames on March 8 of last year.
“I don’t want to say I expected it, but I didn’t expect great things when you’re not practicing all week,” Mulkey said. “I’m a realist. I knew we were going to be in for a ball game. … You could not practice all week and beat a lot of teams. But you can’t beat that team. That team has 3-point shooters that expose us. That team has great coaching. It was the perfect timing for what you saw happen happen”.
Jaden Owens came off the bench to lead the sixth-ranked Lady Bears with 15 points while Baylor star forward NaLyssa Smith had a double-double with 14 points and 12 rebounds.
Owens made a 3-pointer that tied the game at 65 with 4:36 left in the fourth quarter.
But Iowa State freshman guard Lexi Donarski answered with a trey on the ensuing trip down the floor and the Cyclones led the rest of the way.
Baylor cut Iowa State’s lead to two when junior center Queen Egbo made a jumper in the lane with 36 seconds left.
With only six seconds difference in the shot clock and game clock, the Lady Bears opted to play defense without fouling the Cyclones at the end.
But Joens got into the paint and made a shot for a four-point lead with less than 10 seconds remaining and Baylor didn’t score again.
“That’s what great players do,” Mulkey said. “They take over the game and give (Joens) credit.”
Joens had 12 rebounds and a block to go along with her game-high 27 for Iowa State (9-4, 5-1 Big 12).
The Lady Bears (8-2, 3-1) were coming off a two-week absence from game action due to COVID-19 issues.
Mulkey’s last game on the bench before Saturday was in Baylor’s 117-24 win over McNeese State on Dec. 19.
The Lady Bears’ Hall-of-Fame bound coach missed the teams’ win at TCU on Jan. 2 due to contact tracing. Mulkey then tested positive for COVID-19 upon returning to the team facility on Jan. 4 and went into the NCAA- and conference-mandated coronavirus protocol. Meanwhile, the Baylor program restricted activities for contact tracing purposes.
The period of restricted activities caused Baylor to cancel its game against No. 4 Connecticut on Jan. 7 and postpone Big 12 games against Kansas State and Kansas in the last week.
On Saturday, the Lady Bears suited up nine eligible players, plus transfer Kamaria McDaniel, who had knee surgery in the fall and is sitting out this season. Forward Caitlin Bickle and guard DiJonai Carrington were not with the team.
Mulkey said she felt good, though she has lost her senses of taste and smell, a common result of COVID-19 infection.
The Baylor coach said she thought the Cyclones controlled the game from start to finish.
Yet the Lady Bears had a chance to take the momentum away in the fourth quarter.
Lady Bears guard Trinity Oliver hit a jumper to tie the game at 58 with 7:13 remaining. On Iowa State’s next possession, Owens came up with a steal and a run-out layup for a 60-58 advantage.
But Joens scored the Cyclones’ next seven points to keep Baylor from stretching out a lead on its home floor.
Lady Bears point guard DiDi Richards played 30 minutes, but sat out for the final 3:14 of the fourth quarter with leg cramps.
Iowa State controlled the scoreboard for most of the first half on the strength of the Cyclones’ 15-0 run in the first quarter.
Baylor led 6-5 when Joens got to the basket on a fast break for a layup and a foul. She went to the line to complete the 3-point play and that ignited Iowa State.
A little more than a minute later, Iowa State forward Kristin Scott hit 3-pointers on back-to-back trips down the floor. Then Joens hit a jumper to extend Iowa State’s lead to 18-6 with 3:49 left in the first quarter.
“I think they controlled the game from start to finish,” Mulkey said. “We played very hard to stay in the game and to take leads. I thought they controlled the game in a lot of ways.”
Richards got to the basket for a layup that stopped the Cyclones’ surge, but the Lady Bears still went to the second quarter trailing 23-12.
Iowa State took its largest lead of the first half when guard Maggie Espenmiller-McGraw made a layup early in the second quarter for a 13-point edge.
But the Lady Bears punched back at that juncture with a 14-0 surge.
Owens sparked the run with a pair of 3-pointers and Smith finished it with a jumper that put the Lady Bears in front, 26-25.
Even so, Iowa State clawed back into the lead by halftime.
Donarski hit a 3-pointer with 42 seconds remaining in the second quarter, pushing her team back in front, 34-31.
Egbo made a layup for the final bucket of the first half, cutting Iowa State’s advantage at the break to 34-33.
Baylor limited Iowa State to a 4-of-16 performance from 3-point range in the first half. The Cyclones led going into the third quarter despite shooting just 38.9% from the field in the first two quarters.
The Cyclones shot 46.4% in the second half to boost their game total to 42.2%
BEAR FACTS: Lady Bears freshman guard Sarah Andrews got her first start on Saturday. Andrews, but struggled from the field. Andrews went 0 for 7 on field goals and 1 of 2 on free throws and finished with one point and two assists in 22 minutes of action. “I thought she was nervous — turned down good shots to take harder shots,” Mulkey said.