Iowa State survives Kansas State in Ryan’s return to Bramlage

Former Central Plains standout Emily Ryan (11) gets by Kansas State's Ayoka Lee (50) and Laura...
Former Central Plains standout Emily Ryan (11) gets by Kansas State's Ayoka Lee (50) and Laura Macke (13) during Iowa State's 62-60 win over the Cats Thursday in Manhattan.((photo by Scott Weaver/Kansas State University))
Published: Jan. 28, 2021 at 9:56 PM CST
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MANHATTAN, Kan. (Catch it Kansas) - Emily Ryan’s Homecoming turned out to be a thriller. The former Central Plains star returned to Kansas Thursday for Iowa State’s Big 12 league contest in Manhattan. The Cyclones defeated Kansas State 91-69 in a Dec. 18 meeting in Ames, but needed a Lady Wildcat miss at the buzzer Thursday to escape with a 62-60 win.

With the victory, Iowa State coach Bill Fennelly, in his 26th season at Iowa State and 33rd Div. I season overall, picked up his 700th career win. For Ryan, it was a return to Bramlage Coliseum where she won two of her three state titles with Central Plains.

“It was a special game for everyone knowing coach was sitting on 699 (wins),” Ryan said. “We were wanting to get that 700th for him. That was the biggest thing, and it was just a big win for the team. Any win on the road in the Big 12 is really important. It was a fun night, especially since we had so many Cyclone fans in the stands.”

Iowa State led by as many as nine points midway through the third quarter when Ryan found fellow freshman Lexi Donarski for a 3-pointer and a 46-37 score. The Cyclones closed out the final 3:25 of the frame without a field goal as Kansas State climbed back into the contest at 51-50.

Wildcat All-American candidate Ayoka Lee scored nine of her team-high 19 points in the third quarter. The 6-6 sophomore from Minnesota was fouled by Ryan early in the fourth and her free throws gave Kansas State a 52-51 edge with 8:16 remaining. The Lady Wildcats led by as many as three points before Iowa State ended its drought with an assist from Ryan to senior Rae Johnson.

Then both teams struggled to score. Kansas State went more than six minutes without a point and the Cyclones went more than five minutes. Iowa State junior Ashley Joens ended the drought with a pair of free throws with 1:06 to play, then Lee answered with a basket on the other end to level the score at 56 with just 52 ticks left.

Ryan came up with two more big plays down the stretch. Her sixth assist of the night, this time to Joens, put the Cyclones on top for good with 34 seconds remaining. Ryan was also the help-side defense that contributed to a Wildcat turnover on the next Kansas State possession.

“There are going to be times in games when things aren’t going right and shots aren’t falling,” said Ryan. “I thought we did a good job. Even though our shots weren’t falling, we kept battling on the defensive end. I think that’s what won us the game tonight.”

Donarski made a pair of free throws with 19 seconds left to push the lead back to 60-56. Lee scored just six seconds later but missed an open jumper in the lane in the final five seconds. Donarski made one of two free throws on her end but Kansas State still had a chance to win the game until Rachel Ranke’s 3-pointer at the buzzer rimmed off.

Lee scored just four points in the first half but finished big to lead Kansas State with 19 points and 12 rebounds. Wildcat sophomore Emily Ebert, a product of Class 1A Frankfort in Kansas, played 36 minutes for the Cats and scored six points.

Ryan, one of three freshman starters for the Cyclones, finished with six assists, four points, and four rebounds. Joens, tied at No. 7 in the nation with 24.6 points a night, made 11 of her 12 free throw attempts to lead all players with 22 points. Senior Kristin Scott, averaging 10. 3 points a contest, scored 17 points against Kansas State in the Dec. 18 meeting. She scored 13 of Iowa State’s first 20 points Thursday and finished with 15.

After the game, the team celebrated Fennelly’s 700th win with custom T-shirts and a mess of confetti in the locker room.

“I was surprised,” Fennelly said. “I looked up in the stands before the game and Deb was there (and my kids and grandkids were there). I didn’t know they were coming, which made it even more nerve wracking. It was great to be able to share a special moment with the most special people in my life.”

Sixteen games into her Big 12 career, Ryan has helped the Cyclones to an 11-5 start. One loss came against then top-ranked South Carolina, and Iowa State has lost both league matches to ranked Texas. All three of those games were nationally televised. Just 11 days ago, the Cyclones snapped Baylor’s 61-game home win streak with a 75-71 win. Ryan had 15 points and five boards in the win.

Entering Thursday’s game, Ryan sat second in the nation among Div. I athletes with 91 assists, just seven behind UMASS junior Destiney Philoxy. Ryan’s 6.1 assists a game are tied for No. 12 in the nation.

On Dec. 22, Iowa State handed Drake an 85-67 defeat. Ryan scored 20 points on 7-of-9 shooting and also recorded 10 assists and four rebounds. That effort earned her Big 12 Freshman of the Week honors.

This year’s group of freshmen at Iowa State is the highest-rated group of recruits in school history. Donarski, a standout from Wisconsin, is second on the team in minutes and scoring. Ryan is fourth on the team in scoring and third on the team in minutes. Ryan, Donarski, and freshman Kylie Feuerbach from Illinois have started all 17 games for the Cyclones.

“It’s definitely a challenge,” Ryan said of the move from Class 1A basketball in Kansas to Big 12 basketball. “That’s why I came here, to have that challenge and to be pushed. My teammates make it so much easier for me. I couldn’t imagine doing it without them by my side. Coach Fenn has done everything he can to help me as well, so I’m just lucky to have them.”

Iowa State plays Baylor in a big rematch Saturday afternoon in Ames. The game is scheduled for a 3 p.m. tip and will be nationally televised on ESPN2.

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