By Wendell Barnhouse
DALLAS – There are bad combinations like gasoline and fire … alcohol and motor vehicles … Kanye West and the Grammys.
In college basketball, one that comes to mind is a 12 minutes of action without a field goal during a first half where your opponent is making 55.6 percent of their shots. Iowa State found itself on the wrong side of that combo.
No. 4 seed Oklahoma State completed a three-game sweep of the Cyclones with a 67-58 victory in Saturday's first quarterfinal game of the Phillips 66 Big 12 Women's Championship. The Cowgirls (20-10) have advanced to the semifinals for the third consecutive season and will face top-seeded Baylor in Sunday's first semifinal.
"It's pretty much the struggles we've had all year of when you don't have a couple people show up and make shots, we're going to get beat," said Iowa State coach Bill Fennelly, whose team hopefully will earn an NCAA Tournament at-large invitation. "Oklahoma State's an outstanding team, they guard us great, but this game is about making baskets and we certainly didn't make even close to enough."
The Cyclones (18-12) made four of their first nine shots and led 13-10 with 14:17 remaining but that was the high point of the first half. Iowa State missed 16 of their next 20 shots, including seven shots from point-blank range.
"I think our first half was probably as good a first half as we've played all year," Oklahoma State coach Jim Littell said. "We were clicking offensively, did a great job to hold them to 21 points in the first half. "
Iowa State's Nikki Moody, who is from nearby Euless, Texas, made her first shot and then missed 14 in a row. She finished 5-of-24. However, she made back-to-back 3-pointers to help Iowa State mount its rally. Her free throws pulled the Cyclones within three with 1:04 to play.
Asked what he told his team as Iowa State rallied, Littell had a simple answer: "Guard 'em."
"I think we've done this all year, we get leads and we come back in the second half and I feel like we get comfortable," said Oklahoma State's Brittney Martin, who finished with 17. "We just get comfortable and I think we just had to pick up the defensive intensity and get back to what we were doing in the first half."
Oklahoma State started 2-6 but have won seven of their last nine. The difference? Junior point guard Roddricka Patton, a 5-4 Energizer Bunny who is quicker than an eye blink, moved into the starting lineup. That allowed sophomore Roshunda Johnson to move to shooting guard.
Johnson made six of nine shots and scored 15 points in the first half as the Cowgirls built a 34-21 lead. Patton had six assists and seven steals, including a key swipe in the final minute after Iowa State had pulled to within 61-58.
"Her energy, her enthusiasm, her passion for the game has really energized our program," Littell said. "It's fun to watch somebody that enjoys playing the game that hard and I thought her steals were very significant. "Everything she's done has turned our program from being 2-6 to being in position to where we feel like we're in the NCAA Tournament."
Oklahoma State has won 20 games for the fourth consecutive season, the first time that's happened in school history. The Cowgirls also have set the record for most victories in a four-year span with 89.
"Those are huge accomplishments for our program and we're very proud of that and it came at a good time," Littell said.