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By Ian Smith, CycloneFanatic.com Contributor
AMES – Forget 5-Hour Energy – just bottle whatever Bill Fennelly says at halftime and sell that at Kum & Go.
The Iowa State coach knows how to get his team jacked up.
The Cyclones turned a sluggish 26-21 halftime deficit into a 64-43 rout over Nebraska thanks to a dominating second half. The victory pushes No. 17 Iowa State’s record to 13-3 and 1-1 in the Big 12.
“I don’t think we could have played any better (in the second half),” Fennelly said. “We guarded great.”
The Cyclones opened the second half on a 9-0 run to take their first lead of the game, 30-26. Later, Iowa State blew open the game with a 22-0 spurt to push its advantage to 64-37.
At one point, the Cyclones’ stifling defense held Nebraska scoreless for a nine minute, four second stretch.
“We really tried to focus on defense,” Kelsey Bolte said.
That was evident. The Cornhuskers made just 8-of-31 shots after halftime and went 0-12 from behind the arc.
Offensively, Iowa State did whatever it wanted. Bolte drilled a 3-pointer from the left corner to give the Cyclones a 28-26 lead that they would never relinquish. The senior’s first trey sparked her teammates as Iowa State outscored Nebraska 43-17 in the final 20 minutes.
Bolte – who scored 18 points after halftime – was consistently open because of point guard Lauren Mansfield’s aggressive play. Mansfield scored all nine of her points in the second half by driving to the hoop. When she wasn’t open, the junior found Bolte.
“Kelsey kind of had a similar game she had against Baylor,” Fennelly said. “The first half of the Baylor and Nebraska games, she didn’t look very good. In the second half of both games, she looked like the best player in the league.”
If Iowa State can play with the same energy it did in Tuesday’s second half, the Cyclones will be a tough team for anyone to beat.
Player of the game
Iowa State plays a different level when Kelsey Bolte shoots the ball like she did Tuesday. The Cyclones’ only senior made 9-of-13 shots and hit four 3-pointers on her way to a game-high 22 points.
“I was just ready to shoot,” Bolte said. “Anna (Prins) had some good passes from the post – some no-look passes. She did a great job. Lauren (Mansfield) was skipping the ball. I think we all did a great job of moving the ball quickly.”
Bolte’s onslaught started early after halftime. The Ida Grove native splashed three treys in the first 5:21 to give Iowa State a 38-30 advantage. Bolte’s last 3-pointer of the game made the score 64-37 and put an exclamation point on the victory.
“I thought Bolte had a really good game in the second half,” Nebraska coach Connie Yori said. “We went one possession of zone and we didn’t find her and that got her going.”
Bolte is now averaging 16.3 points per game this season and has hit 49 3-pointers.
Anna Prins’ transformation is as striking as it is rapid. In the span of three games, Anna Prins has gone from offensive afterthought to big-time scorer. In those contests, Prins has averaged 18.3 points per game.
On Tuesday, Prins tallied 18 points and 11 rebounds in 33 minutes.
“I think it’s a mindset thing,” Prins said. “I decided that I need to pick my game up. I was in a little bit of a slump. It’s just a matter of getting my confidence back. I guess I’m just really excited it’s the Big 12.”
Before her outburst, Prins was inconsistent around the basket and had trouble hanging onto the ball. The 6-foot-7 center looks like a different player now. Prins is going toward the hoop inside and showing a nice touch from behind the arc.
“She has really changed our team,” Fennelly said. “She’s a dynamic scorer. She’s rebounding.”
As good as Iowa State was in the second half, it was equally as bad in the first 20 minutes. Fennelly constantly talks about his team needing to play a full 40 minutes. So far in the Big 12, that hasn’t been the case.
In the opener against Baylor, the Cyclones trailed 16-0 on their way to 70-58 loss. On Tuesday, it was a 9-0 deficit at the hands of Nebraska that nearly cost Iowa State.
“I have no idea what’s going on at the beginning of the games,” Fennelly joked.
The Cyclones couldn’t get anything going offensively in the first half. The Cornhuskers’ defense caused problems by double teaming the post. Iowa State scored just 21 points on 8-of-25 shooting in the first 20 minutes.
– The No. 17-ranked Cyclones have been in the Associated Press top-25 for 24-straight weeks.
– The official attendance for Tuesday’s game was 9, 608 despite poor weather conditions.
– Nebraska’s leading scorer, Dominique Kelly (14.1 points per game) did not play due to lingering injuries.
– Hallie Christofferson finished with six points and three rebounds.
– To go with her nine points, Mansfield dished out seven assists and snared seven rebounds.
– Jessica Schroll is questionable to play at Colorado after suffering a concussion in the first half on Tuesday.
Iowa State is back on the road on Saturday at Colorado. The Buffaloes are 9-5 overall and 0-1 in the Big 12. In its first Big 12 game, Colorado was blown out at Texas A&M, 85-57.
Senior Brittany Spears leads the Buffaloes with 17.6 points per game. Chucky Jeffrey averages 14.8 points and 9.1 rebounds for Colorado.
Game time is set for 5 p.m.