STILLWATER — Iowa State’s long-distance shots poured in early, resulting in 15 of the Cyclones’ first 17 points.
They came from a wide cast of characters, with six Cyclones connecting at least once from behind the arc.
And they came often, as Iowa State made 15-of-36 shots from 3-point land, propelling it to an 86-69 women’s basketball victory over No. 15 Oklahoma State on Wednesday night at Gallagher-Iba Arena in a contest that carried plenty of postseason stakes.
“It’s like anything else,” Iowa State coach Bill Fennelly said. “When the ball’s going in, you want it a little more, you’re getting yourself open a little bit more…
“When the ball’s going in the basket, that’s the way we’ve gotta play. We don’t have a lot of different weapons. We shoot the 3, we want to get to the free throw line, we want to throw the ball to big No. 5 (Hallie Christofferson). And if those things aren’t working, you lose games.”
The win likely puts Iowa State (19-8, 8-9 Big 12) in the NCAA Tournament. OSU (21-6, 10-6), meanwhile, likely now needs to beat Kansas State at home Saturday and win at Texas in its regular-season finale to clinch the No. 3 spot in the Big 12 Tournament.
Why is that third spot so critical? It’s the difference between likely playing Baylor or West Virginia in the semifinals.
It’s no secret that Iowa State would want to shoot the ball from the outside Wednesday. The Cyclones entered the game ranked 10th nationally with 8.8 makes per game. But they also only normally sink 33.3 percent of the 26.5 attempts per game.
The Cowgirls, meanwhile, were third in the nation at defending the 3-pointer (24.9 percent), with perhaps their best performance of the season coming when they held Iowa State to a 3-of-17 outing in Ames in January.
Coach Jim Littell said he expected Iowa State to fire about 20 Wednesday. But the Cyclones got a slew of open looks, with Brynn Williamson (5-of-9) and Jadda Buckley (5-of-8) causing the most damage.
Many of those long balls came in transition. But several others came on the old-fashioned penetrate-and-kick, where Nikki Moody and Buckely drove to the hole and forced to Cowgirls to help defensively, which then left an open shooter on the perimeter.
“We knew we had to contain them off the dribble, and we didn’t do a very good doing that,” Littell said.
Littell and point guard Tiffany Bias both admitted the Cowgirls did not adhere to the scouting report, which called for a defender to always stay on Williamson or Buckley.
“Our defense was just lacking,” Bias said. “Our effort was lacking, and that was the outcome of it when you leave shooters open like that.”
Those shots — plus an OSU offense that scuffled to a 29-point output through the first 23-plus minutes — helped Iowa State’s lead grow to 18. Still, the Cowgirls put together a spurt, outscoring the Cyclones 23-10 over the next six minutes to cut that advantage to 57-52 with about 10 minutes to go.
But then Littell pointed to a string of “horrible mistakes,” including allowing a driving layup and putback by Seanna Johnson, that helped Iowa State to quickly build its lead back to double digits.
“It goes from six to about 14 before you know what’s going on,” Littell said, “and then you’re out of the game.”