AMES, Iowa (AP) Baylor’s shot a No. 1 seed in the NCAA tournament appears to be slipping away.
Senior Fallon Ellis scored a career-high 18 points and unranked Iowa State stunned No. 3 Baylor 76-71 on Saturday, handing the Lady Bears their second straight loss after a 26-1 start and giving coach Bill Fennelly his 600th career win.
Brynn Williamson added 17 for the Cyclones (18-10, 9-8 Big 12), who knocked off their second top-five opponent this season. Iowa State beat then-No. 3 Texas 59-57 on Jan. 10.
Article continues below ...
Nina Davis scored 16 points for the Lady Bears, who dropped consecutive games for just the second time since 2010 – though coach Kim Mulkey was quick to point out that they went to the Final Four that year.
”I just think it’s the way our schedule fell,” Baylor coach Kim Mulkey said. ”You just address it and talk to them. Quite frankly, I’m surprised that this young bunch hasn’t experienced it more. We’re 20-something and 3 and we’re Big 12 champions. That’s what I’m going to focus on when we get back on that practice floor.”
Baylor’s first back-to-back losses to unranked teams in 15 years couldn’t have come at a worse time though. The Lady Bears competing against – and falling behind – the likes of South Carolina, UConn, Tennessee and Notre Dame for a top seed.
Baylor (26-3, 15-2), which trailed by as much as 10, got within 72-71 with 1:53 left. But Ellis picked up a steal after a Seanna Johnson layup, and Nikki Moody’s layup with 40 seconds left sealed it for the Cyclones.
Baylor clinched its fifth straight Big 12 regular season title when it beat TCU last week – and promptly lost to Oklahoma on the road.
The Lady Bears committed six turnovers in less than seven minutes and went into halftime up 31-30 despite shooting 54 percent.
The Cyclones took control with a 14-2 run, jumping ahead 61-52 midway through the second half on back-to-back 3s from Ellis.
”It’s just youth. When things break down, you’ve got to improvise. You’ve just got to be a baller out there, and we’re just having to understand how to do it when you play good teams and coaches who guard you differently,” Mulkey said.
Ellis, who started her career day by singing the national anthem, was 6 of 9 from the floor. Her previous high was 11 points, which she scored five times this season.
”The game? Oh man. It was crazy,” Ellis said. ”I’m glad we went out with a bang.”
BAYLOR: The Lady Bears beat Iowa State 79-47 in their first meeting in Waco…Baylor was outrebounded 37-30, and it hit just two 3s.
IOWA STATE: The Cyclones had dropped six of nine before beating the Bears…They were able to circumvent Baylor’s zone from inside the arc, shooting 15 of 23 on 2-pointers. ”We beat a great team. A team we’ve struggled with forever,” Fennelly said.
Niya Johnson missed a jumper that would have given Baylor a one-point lead with 1:30 left. Seanna Johnson was wide open down the floor for the layup that made it 74-71 Iowa State, and Ellis’s steal allowed the Cyclones to burn some clock before Moody’s final layup.
The battle between Niya Johnson and Moody, two of the nation’s top point guards, didn’t disappoint. Johnson had 13 points and eight assists for Baylor, while Moody scored 13 points and broke Iowa State’s record for career assists with 11. She now has 730 assists.
Baylor closes the regular season at home against Texas Tech on Monday.