Cowgirls end ISU’s historical start

AMES – Oklahoma State learned last week at West Virginia that playing not to lose can get you beat.

The 15th-ranked Cowgirls stayed aggressive Saturday night, snapping the best start in Iowa State history and reminding the rest of the Big 12 that they’ll be a factor in the league title chase.

Tiffany Bias scored 22 points and Oklahoma State beat No. 11 Iowa State 69-62 on Saturday, knocking the Cyclones from the ranks of the unbeaten.

Brittney Martin had 14 for the Cowgirls (14-1, 3-1 Big 12), who let West Virginia go on a late 15-2 run in their only loss on Jan. 4.

Bias made sure Oklahoma State didn’t repeat that collapse, hitting a floater in traffic and a pair of free throws with 14 seconds left.

“We played to win at the end, and weren’t in that mode of just trying to hold on,” Oklahoma State coach Jim Littell said.

Hallie Christofferson had 20 points to lead the Cyclones, who shot just 3 of 17 from 3-point range.

Iowa State entered Saturday as the only school in the country with unbeaten men’s and women’s teams – but both lost in a span of seven hours.

“I really hope the headline in (Sunday’s) paper is not ‘Black Saturday.’ Both teams are 14-1. So I know it’s convenient to bang on both of us right now. But let’s give somebody a little bit of credit. The credit (Saturday) night goes to Oklahoma State,” Iowa State coach Bill Fennelly said. “When you turn the ball over as much as we did and you don’t make shots, it’s hard to win.”

The first matchup between top-15 teams in Ames in 12 years was also a key early test for two of the Big 12’s best teams.

Oklahoma State took control with a 12-0 run – and made it stand up in the final minutes.

Brittany Atkins buried back-to-back 3s, and Martin’s layup put Oklahoma State up 46-37 with just over 13 minutes left. Iowa State had a number of chances to make plays that could have tipped momentum in its favor, but Bias and the Cowgirls seemed to always have the answer.

“Quite frankly, we played as well as we can possibly play, and that’s what it takes to win up here. Such a tough venue,” Littell said.

The Cyclones didn’t shoot particularly well from the field in the first half.

But they were great from the line – and that was enough for a 32-29 lead.

Iowa State was intent on pressuring Oklahoma State’s interior defense, driving repeatedly to the basket. That was a big reason why they got to the line 21 times in the first 20 minutes. They made 16 of those free throws, which helped cover for Christofferson’s cold start from the floor.

Christofferson eventually got untracked. But she also picked up her fourth foul with 7:38, and Iowa State’s offense wasn’t the same without their star on the floor.

The Cyclones also entered play with over 10 made 3s a game, and they couldn’t make up for their struggles from beyond the arc.

“They were good, and they were committed to taking away the 3,” Fennelly said. “So when we did have a good look, maybe our feet weren’t as set. They’ve always guarded us well. That’s a very, very good, very well-coached basketball team. A team that knows how to play the way they need to play to win games. They’re 14-1 for a reason.”

One of the biggest reasons was Bias, who was 8 of 11 from the field and had four assists against just one turnover in 34 minutes.

“We believe in her,” Littell said.