NCAA Tournament first: Iowa State's Audi Crooks scores 40, most points by a freshman in tourney game ever



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How do you explain a freshman playing in her first NCAA Tournament game posting a stat line authored by only one other player in the history of the game, men or women?

Specifically, we’re talking about Iowa State freshman Audi Crooks, who dropped 40 points while shooting 90% and grabbing 12 rebounds to lift the Cyclones to a 93-86 win over a Maryland Terrapins squad that had led by 20 in the second quarter. And the player she joined is none other than UCLA legend Bill Walton. 

Again, how do you explain it? Crooks will tell you.

“Before every game I just try to take a moment and I pray. I’m kind of seeking guidance from my father,” she said after the win. “He passed away when I was 16 in 2021. I just kind of take a second and ground myself, tap in to my spiritual side, and just know that everything is going to be ok and he’s got the best seat in the house.”

Prior to Friday’s game, no freshman — woman or man — had ever scored 40 points in an NCAA Tournament game. Sacramento Kings guard De’Aaron Fox scored 39 points in No. 2 seed Kentucky’s 86-75 Sweet 16 win over No. 3 seed UCLA in 2017.

And No. 7 seed Iowa State needed just about every one of Crooks’ 40 points. The Cyclones’ comeback was the second largest ever in NCAA Women’s Tournament history, and it came on the same day that No. 11 seed Middle Tennessee used an 18-point point comeback to upset No. 6 seed Louisville, 71-69.

Crooks performance was an instant classic. She was 18-of-20 from the field, which is rare air territory. In fact, according to OptaSTATS, Crooks and Walton are the only two players to score at least 40 points on 90% shooting in an NCAA Tournament game. Walton achieved the feat in the 1973 title game against Memphis, which means it took 40 years for someone to join him. 

Per ESPN Stats and Info, Crooks’ 40 points are also tied for the second-most in a NCAA Women’s Tournament debut, only trailing behind former Clemson standout Barbara Kennedy’s 43-point performance in 1982, the first year the women’s tournament was held.

Iowa State moves into the second round for the fourth time in the last six years. The Cyclones will be facing either No. 2 seed Stanford or No. 15 Norfolk State on Sunday.





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