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By Ian Smith, CycloneFanatic.com Contributor
This isn’t your typical Iowa State women’s basketball team.
Sure the 3-pointers are still there, but the Cyclones (6-1) are winning with a cerebral defense. On an afternoon when its shots weren’t falling, Iowa State’s defense delivered. The No. 19 ranked Cyclones stifled Michigan (4-4) on Sunday for a 60-47 victory in the Big Ten/Big 12 challenge in front of 11,829 fans at Hilton Coliseum.
“Our coaches do a great job with scouting reports,” senior Kelsey Bolte said. “We learned a new defense this week and we followed it really well. It worked great for us.”
Through seven games, the statistics are outstanding. Teams are averaging only 50.7 points per game while shooting just 31.5 percent from the floor against Iowa State.
It was Michigan’s turn to find out how good the Cyclones’ defense is on Sunday. The same Wolverines squad that scored 91 points and drilled 12 3-pointers on Wednesday against Wake Forest couldn’t find any openings versus Iowa State. Michigan made 19-of-50 shots and were outscored from behind the arc, 30-9.
“There are teams in the country that are going to outscore you, that’s not us,” Iowa State coach Bill Fennelly said. “When you hold someone to 47 that scored 91 on Wednesday, we’ll take that.”
Give credit to a unique game plan by Fennelly and his staff for Sunday’s performance. The Cyclones were determined to not give up any 3-pointers to Michigan even if that meant sacrificing an easy two. The strategy worked as the Wolverines made only 3-of-18 3-point attempts.
“They made 12-of-23 (3-point) shots in their last game,” Fennelly said. “We said absolutely, positively chase them off the 3-point line. Luckily, when they got them off, we contested most of them.”
The Cyclones had their own struggles on offense, but thanks to their smothering defense, it didn’t matter.
Player of the game
Kelsey Bolte won’t remember Sunday’s victory as one of her best shooting performances, but it didn’t stop the senior from playing a key role in the 60-47 win. With the entire Iowa State team struggling to make shots, Bolte scored 20 points and started a decisive second-half spurt.
“I just kept shooting,” Bolte said. “The coaches were telling me to keep shooting, so I did. I knocked a couple down. My shooting percentage wasn’t great, but I kept shooting.”
Yes, Bolte made only 7-of-20 attempts, but five of those were 3-pointers, including three big ones in the second half. The Cyclones made only 19 field goals on 59 tries, and none were bigger than Bolte’s.
Iowa State held a tenuous 38-36 lead when Bolte found her range. First, she swished a 3-pointer from the right wing to push the Cyclones ahead 41-36. On the next possession, she hit a trey from the left side.
“Kelsey made two in a row and that’s six points,” Fennelly said. “That seems like only six, but in a game like this, it’s a lot more than six.”
Bolte added another crucial three moments later and Iowa State’s lead wasn’t threatened again.
Win one for Jess
Every game is important to Jessica Schroll, but Sunday’s matchup with Michigan admittedly meant a little bit more. The Midland, Mich., native played against her home-state team for the first time.
“There was a little extra pep in my step,” Schroll said. “I was definitely prepared for this game.”
Schroll scored seven points and grabbed five rebounds – three on the offensive end – in the win.
“We didn’t want her to go home and get crap for losing to her state,” Bolte joked.
Not only did Schroll play a key role on the court, she helped pump up her teammates before the game. Fennelly anoints a player each game to get their teammates amped and he picked Schroll for the matchup with the Wolverines. She did her part by leaving inspirational notes in her teammates’ lockers.
“Today was Jess’ day,” Fennelly said. “I told the kids before the game, “Everyone play hard as always. Play for yourself, play for the fans, play for each other and today we play harder for Jess.”
– Lauren Mansfield continues to play well for Iowa State. She scored 13 points and dished out 10 assists against Michigan.
– Anna Prins added 10 points and six rebounds for the Cyclones. The 6-foot-7 center also hit two 3-pointers.
– Chelsea Poppens scored only two points, but she made still made an impact with 10 rebounds.
Iowa up next
Iowa State will square off against Iowa on Thursday night in Iowa City. The Hawkeyes are 8-1 and were ranked No. 18 in last week’s AP Poll.
Look for more on the upcoming matchup with Iowa at CycloneFanatic.com later this week.