Freshman Audi Crooks scores 40 points as No. 7 Iowa State defeats No. 10 Maryland in NCAA first round
Freshman Audi Crooks scores 40 points as No. 7 Iowa State defeats No. 10 Maryland in NCAA first round

STANFORD, Calif. (AP) — Audi Crooks grabbed the Iowa State nameplate and put it firmly on the NCAA Tournament’s big bracket board, a second-round berth.

She absolutely deserved the chance to do it.

“That was so much fun, my teammates dunked me,” she said, still grinning from ear to ear about 30 minutes later. “I’m just excited to play another game with these girls, with this group. This is a special team and I just didn’t want it to end.”

The freshman star scored a career-high 40 points on 18-for-20 shooting in his sensational NCAA Tournament debut, and No. 7 seed Iowa State hit all the big shots in the second half to rally for 20 points little and beat 10-seed Maryland 93-86 on Friday night.

Crooks joined Bill Walton as the only players in NCAA Tournament history to score 40 points on at least 90 percent shooting since Walton did it for UCLA in the 1973 title game, according to OptaSTATS.

The 20-point comeback marked the second-most all-time in an NCAA Tournament game, trailing only Texas A&M, who overcame a 21-point deficit to beat Penn in 2017.

“I thought it was one of the most fun games I’ve ever been in,” Iowa State coach Bill Fennelly said, praising his team’s poise to fight back. “So proud of our team, ecstatic for them.”

Fighting back tears, Crooks shared how she takes a moment before each game to be spiritual, pray and remember her father, Jimmy, who died when she was 16 in 2021. She committed to Iowa State a little after that, and Fennelly even went to his favorite Mexican restaurant for food during the recruiting process, and it’s not his favorite dish.

“I’m just grateful, I can’t thank the people I’m surrounded by enough,” Crooks said. “When you’re surrounded by people you love, who care about you, who believe in you as much as they give you the ball, that says a lot about how we play as a unit.”

Emily Ryan knocked down a key 3-pointer with 6:06 left and finished with 18 points while dishing out 14 assists as Iowa State continued to pound the ball on the ever-reliable Crooks — even when it led to a handful of late turnovers.

Crooks, the program’s first freshman to earn AP All-America honors with this week’s honorable mention selection, led the team with averages of 18.9 points and 7.7 rebounds and became the 16th player to score 40 or more this season . She had 12 tackles against Maryland.

“She dropped 40 on 20 shots, that’s pretty amazing,” Ryan said, pointing to his teammate’s stat sheet. “It was a special night for her and for our team. It couldn’t have happened to a better person. … When we throw it out there, she gets it every time.

Ally Kubek knocked down all five of her 3-pointers in the first half and finished with seven from long range en route to a season-best 29 points, and it looked like Maryland might run away from the Cyclones.

Instead, Iowa State (21-11) advances to play Sunday for a berth in the Portland Regional. The Cyclones will face second-seeded Stanford (29-5) after the Cardinal beat No. 15 Norfolk State 79-50 in Friday’s late game at Maples Pavilion.

Kelsey Jones hit a game-tying 3-pointer with 3:20 left in the third quarter as Iowa State used a 10-0 run to get back into the game, and Crooks’ three-point play with 2:50 left put the Cyclones ahead 62-61 , before scoring again next time.

Kubek’s hot hand from 3-point range got Maryland (19-14) off the perimeter early, and the Terrapins had to try to make things difficult against the 6-foot-3 Crooks in the low post as she entered the shootout with the an NCAA-best 58.4% from the floor.

“I’d say it’s one of the best I’ve ever seen, points-wise, efficiency-wise, venue-wise, event-wise,” Fennelly said.

Maryland made nine 3s in the first half, the most in any half this season – and the 11 total 3s were a Terrapins-high.

It was a coaching meeting between close friends. Fennelly recruited current Terrapins coach Brenda Frese to his first team in Ames, and she remained with the program from 1995-99. They posed for a photo before the game.

“It’s terrible, Brenda is part of my family,” Fennelly said of the beating of his dear friend.

The programs have never met before – and Frese’s team reached its 14th straight NCAA Tournament after upsetting Ohio State in the Big Ten Tournament before losing to Nebraska.

“We’re really disappointed and sad for our fifth-year seniors that we weren’t able to wrap this up,” said Frese, whose teams have never lost in the first round during her tenure dating back to 2002.

Maryland hit six quick 3-pointers and went 10-of-13 from the field for a 33-20 lead after the first quarter.


Maryland: The Terrapins shot 70.6 percent in the first period, making 6 of 7 3s, and the 33 points were the most in any quarter of an NCAA Tournament game. They also kept possessions alive with slow plays and by crashing the boards to create second chances. … During Frese’s coaching under Fennelly, Iowa State reached three NCAA Tournaments and the Elite Eight in 1999. Frese’s sister, Stacey, played for Fennelly from 1997-2000.

Iowa State: Crooks also became just the fourth player in Iowa State program history to score 40 points in a game — and the performance marked the most points in an NCAA debut in 25 years. … The Cyclones trailed 52-36 at halftime and overcame 17 turnovers, aided by a 36-25 rebounding advantage.


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