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By Ian Smith, CycloneFanatic.com
AMES – Iowa State is still perfect this “season.”
Or in other words, the Cyclones are 2-0 since Bill Fennelly wiped the slate clean and turned Iowa State’s remaining schedule into a 12-game tug-of-war with the rest of the conference.
The Cyclones are winning the battle so far. Behind a dominant rebounding performance, Iowa State (15-5, 3-3) led from start to finish, routing Missouri 71-56 at Hilton Coliseum on Saturday afternoon.
The Cyclones sprinted past the Tigers (10-11, 2-5) with a 17-4 run to start the game, then bullied Missouri on the boards the rest of the way. The stout Cyclones front court won the rebounding battle, 45-25.
“I really felt like Iowa State was the aggressors,” Missouri coach Robin Pingeton, a former Iowa State assistant, said. “You could tell that they were playing with a lot of energy, a lot of emotion. They were fired up.”
The Cyclones rallied behind a pair of exhausting efforts. Chelsea Poppens (12 points, 19 rebounds) and Hallie Christofferson (18 points, nine rebounds) paced the Iowa State offense on a day when leading scorer Kelsey Bolte made just 5-of-20 shots and scored 12 points. Poppens and Christofferson combined for 30 points and 28 rebounds.
“I think we knew that we had (to help Bolte out),” Christofferson said. “Everyone really helped out tonight.”
Lauren Mansfield gave Iowa State a quick 8-0 lead with a pair of 3-pointers. The pure stroke was contagious as the Cyclones shot nearly 52 percent in the first half and built a 39-19 advantage at the break.
It was all Poppens after halftime. The sophomore snared 11 rebounds and scored eight points to keep the Tigers from getting back into the game. The closest Missouri got in the second half was 13 points.
“Poppens goes to the boards relentlessly,” Missouri forward Shakara Jones said. “She doesn’t stop. She makes counter moves. You box her out one way, and she goes the other way. She doesn’t let anybody stop her going to the boards.”
Player of the game
If Chelsea Poppens was a football player, her jersey would be covered in mud from head-to-toe after each game. Instead, the Aplington native settles for the scraps and cuts she gets from her constant contact with the court.
Poppens put together another all-out effort against Missouri, finishing with 12 points and a career-high 19 rebounds, 10 of which came on the offensive end.
“I just like to rebound,” Poppens said. “I can’t really explain it.”
Poppens chased rebounds on Saturday like her hair was on fire. Not only that, she drew multiple charges against the Tigers.
“She is the kind of kid you want on your team because of the effort,” Iowa State coach Bill Fennelly said. “Offensive rebounding in the women’s game is effort. It’s not above the rim, you’re not going to out jump someone.”
Fennelly compared Poppens’ rebounding tenacity to former Cyclone Megan Taylor. That’s lofty praise.
Chassidy Cole won’t make many headlines this season, but she is exactly the type of player Iowa State needs. The junior goes mostly unnoticed doing the little things it takes to win.
“The biggest thing is, she has found a niche, found a way to help like Denae Stuckey did last year,” Fennelly said. “She is our best on-ball defender. We put her on their best guard.”
In the last two games – both Cyclone victories – Cole’s combined for 13 assists, 13 points and most impressive, zero turnovers.
“I think she’s played really, really well,” Fennelly said. “This team gets so much attention from (the media) and all the fans. It’s hard to be the one that doesn’t get the attention. You have to be a pretty special individual to be the one that plays hard, and hope your coaches and teammates know how important you are.”
– The 85 points Iowa State scored against Nebraska on Jan. 26 is its most since 2006 when the Cyclones scored 86 at Colorado.
– Official attendance for Saturday’s game was 10,820.
– The Cyclones’ Jessica Schroll saw her first action since suffering a concussion against Nebraska on Jan. 11. The sophomore finished with one point and three rebounds.
– Anna Prins played only 12 minutes on Saturday and scored nine points. Fennelly said he wasn’t sure if she’d play because she was sick during the team’s morning shootaround.
– Lauren Mansfield finished with 14 points and four rebounds for Iowa State.
Iowa State is home for a second-straight game on Wednesday when the Cyclones host Oklahoma State at 7 p.m. The Cowgirls will enter the game with a record of 13-6 and 1-5 in the Big 12 after losing at home to Oklahoma, 82-77, on Saturday.
Despite the 1-5 mark in conference play, Oklahoma State is stingy on defense. The Cowgirls are in the top-10 nationally in both scoring defense (seventh) and field-goal percentage defense (10th).
Toni Young is Oklahoma State’s leading scorer with 14.3 points per game.