AMES – Iowa State’s flawless first-half execution impressed even its harshest critic – Cyclones coach Bill Fennelly.
The Cyclones shot 61.3 percent, scored 24 points in the paint and went into the locker room up 51-29.
Behind its dominate first 20 minutes, No. 25 Iowa State (17-5, 8-4) blew past Kansas State on Saturday, 87-71.
“I thought the first half, we couldn’t play any better,” Fennelly said. “We were efficient, defended, shot the ball great, got the ball into the post on a team that we had an advantage on.”
Chelsea Poppens led the onslaught. The senior couldn’t be stopped, scorching the Wildcats for 20 points and 13 points before half. Poppens finished with 22 points and 18 rebounds in the win.
“We came out and just did our thing,” Poppens said. “We were making shots, we were rebounding, we were doing everything that we needed to do.”
Iowa State wasted no time going inside against a Kansas State team that didn’t suit up a player taller than 5-foot-11. Poppens and Anna Prins both scored inside for a 6-0 edge. Later, Poppens’ driving layup pushed the Cyclones’ edge to 19-8.
After Kidd Blaskowsky swished a 3-pointer, Iowa State went back to the paint. Poppens’ traditional 3-point play made it 37-16.
“Our feet were in oatmeal almost,” Kansas State coach Deb Patterson said. “Everything was an effort. At the same time, Iowa State was being Iowa State. This is one of the best teams in the Big 12 and one of the best teams in the nation.”
Hallie Christofferson got in on the act before the half was over. The junior scored twice inside and hit a pair of treys to give Iowa State a 49-27 edge.
Christofferson finished the game with a career-high 25 points. Nikki Moody equaled her career-high with 13 assists in the game.
“Hallie did great,” Poppens said. “She was posting up and taking time with her post moves.”
The Cyclones didn’t execute as efficiently after the break, but the Wildcats never got closer than 16 points.
“It’s hard to play against Iowa State because you have to pick your battle,” Kansas State’s Brittany Chambers said. “You either got to help on the post a lot or you give up a skip 3.”
Player of the game
The beauty of Chelsea Poppens’ game isn’t long 3-pointers or gracefully running the floor, it’s the tenacity she plays with every possession.
Poppens gave another vintage performance on Saturday. The senior finished with 22 points and 18 rebounds, including 20 points and 13 rebounds in the first half.
“It felt good,” Poppens said. “It felt like all my shots were going in no matter how I was shooting them.”
Poppens scored on the first possession of the game on a layup. It was a theme all afternoon. Poppens, along with Anna Prins and Hallie Christofferson, dominated inside. Iowa State scored a season-best 40 points in the paint.
“I said I don’t know how many times during a timeout, don’t run a play – don’t need too,” Fennelly said. “Spread them out, let them switch, and try to pound the ball to the post. If they help, kick it out and shoot a 3.”
Blowout wins don’t just impress the home faithful. Potential recruits can also be swayed by the performance.
Iowa State is hoping that happens with 2014 target Cayla McMorris. The Minnesota native made an unofficial visit to Ames on Saturday.
“(The visit) is going really well,” McMorris said. “I like the environment. Iowa State is a good team.”
McMorris – who plays AAU for North Tartan – holds early scholarship offers from Iowa State, Iowa, Minnesota, Marquette and Bradley.
“I’d call myself an all-round player. I can go to posting up, to taking people off the dribble.”
McMorris projects as a wing in college.
Nikki Moody on Iowa State’s first half performance
“I feel like the first was amazing,” Nikki Moody said. “We did everything we could possibly do on offense and defense.”
Coach Bill Fennelly on his team playing well
“We talk all of the time about the Iowa State way. I think all 11 players believe in the Iowa State way. I think they know when that happens, everyone benefits – everyone.”
– Official attendance on Saturday was 11,963.
– In Iowa State’s 67-48 win against Texas on Feb. 6, Anna Prins became the 24th Cyclone to score more than 1,000 points in her career. Prins scored a season-high 19 points vs. the Longhorns.
– Iowa State had a season-low 11 turnovers in the win.
– Kidd Blaskowsky scored 12 points, all on 3-pointers.
– Anna Prins tallied 10 points.
– Nikki Moody just missed a double-double with 13 assists and nine points.
A huge matchup looms on the horizon for Iowa State. The Cyclones will travel to Oklahoma (17-5, 7-3) on Wednesday with second place in the Big 12 on the line.
Earlier this season, Iowa State blew out the Sooners, 82-61, behind the Hilton faithful. Hallie Christofferson tied a career-high with 24 points in the first bout. Nikki Moody added 20 points and 13 assists in the victory.
Oklahoma will look to counter with Aaryn Ellenberg. The junior guard averages more than 18 points for the Sooners.