Oklahoma basketball: No. 1 Sooner women fall in Big 12 Championship semifinals

William Purnell-USA TODAY Sports

Iowa State scored early and often and kept its foot on the throttle throughout in upsetting the top-seeded Oklahoma basketball women 85-68 in the semifinals of the Big 12 Women's Championship on Monday.

The Cyclones, seeded 4th in the Big 12 Championship, outscored the Sooners by at least five points in three of the four quarters and shot 58 percent for the game to knock off Big 12 regular-season champion Oklahoma and prevent the Sooners (22-10) from capturing both conference titles for 2023-24.

Iowa State (21-10) moves on to the championship final on Tuesday night at 8 p.m. at the T-Mobile Center in downtown Kansas City, Missouri, where the Lady Cyclones will face the winner on the semifinal contest between No. 2 Texas and No. 3 Kansas State.

Head coach Jennie Barancyzk and her Sooners will now have to await Selection Sunday. six days from now to find out where they will be headed and against which team in the NCAA Women's Tournament.

Oklahoma fell behind early and struggled to get the ball in the basketball in the first 10 minutes. The Sooners shot 21 percent (4 of 19) in the first quarter and trailed 18-11 entering the second period. OU began finding the range more in the second quarter (6 of 15 for 40 percent), but Iowa State was even better, outscoring the Sooners 20-13 to take a 38-24 advantage to the locker room at halftime.

Iowa State shot 61 percent in the third quarter and bumped it up to 77 percent in the final quarter to put the game away. Oklahoma entered the final quarter trailing by 19 points, 62-43, and never got closer than the 17-point difference when the game ended. With the win, the Lady Cyclones were able to avenge an 86-72 home loss to the Sooners in early February.

Oklahoma went ice cold shooting the ball, for nearly three minutes in the second quarter and four minutes late in the third. Fortunately, during the Sooners second-quarter scoring drought, Iowa State was only able to increase its lead from four points to nine. In the third quarter, however, the Cyclones were able to increase a 14-point advantage to 23 on a 9-0 run during the four minutes OU went scoreless.

Louisville transfer Payton Verhulst led the way for the Sooners, scoring 23 points, including five of 11 from three-point range, and pulling down seven rebounds. Freshman Sahara Williams had 16 and Skylar Vann added 12. Three Iowa State starters also reached double figures in scoring, led by Audi Crooks with 25 points and nine rebounds. Addy Brown was six of nine from the field for 16 points and Emily Ryan contributed 12 points.

Iowa State trailed for just 2:28 in the game. Another statistic that stood out was points in the paint, especially layup opportunities. Iowa State scored 34 points in the paint to 26 by Oklahoma; the Cyclones converted 13 of 19 layups, while OU was just 8 of 17.

It wasn't a typical Oklahoma performance, especially in how well they played throughout the conference schedule, but Iowa State had a lot to do with that. Iowa State will now have the opportunity to defend its 2023 Big 12 Tournament championship.