By Ian Smith, CycloneFanatic.com Contributor
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Iowa State began its season Friday searching for a go-to scorer. The Cyclones didn’t need to look for a lockdown defender.
Bill Fennelly’s team might be full of them.
Iowa State (1-0) opened the 2011-12 campaign with a dominating 73-33 victory against Houston Baptist thanks to a stifling defense. The Cyclones held the Huskies to 22 percent shooting and forced 20 turnovers in the win.
“As soon as you get those turnovers, like Jessica (Schroll) scored off of it one time, as soon as you get that intensity, it raises the energy of everyone,” freshman Brynn Williamson said.
After a sloppy start the Cyclones started to take control by speeding up the game defensively. Trailing 16-8, Iowa State started pressing. The Huskies never recovered.
The Cyclones ended the first half on a 30-0 run to take a 38-16 lead into the break. Houston Baptist didn’t score for the last 11 minutes, 52 seconds and didn’t hit a field goal for the last 15:13 of the first half, going 0-for-15 from the field.
After Houston Baptist hit a free throw with 11:52 left in the first half, the Huskies scored just 17 more points the rest of the game. The Cyclones ended the game on a 65-17 run.
“I don’t think we are going to be a pressing team,” Iowa State coach Bill Fennelly said. “I think we took advantage of it and we made some good plays.”
Last season, Iowa State allowed only 55 points per game. Can this year’s defense be even better? We an infusion of athletic freshmen, the Cyclones might be able to if they can learn a couple of things.
“We can be solid again, the key is that we have to make it important every possession, and within the structure of our system,” Fennelly said. “Our kids need to be smarter in some cases and the new kids need to play harder and learn for the first time in their lives that defense is important.”
Behind their defense, the Cyclones were able to score easy points around the hoop. Fallon Ellis’ traditional 3-point play gave Iowa State a 21-16 edge. Later, Jessica Schroll stole a pass under her own basket and made the layup for a 26-16 lead.
The first half scoring ended when Nikki Moody found Hallie Christofferson down low for an easy two points.
It was more of the same after the break as Iowa State cruised to an easy win. All 13 Cyclones who suited up saw action and 10 players scored.
Christofferson led the way offensively with 13 points. Schroll and Lauren Mansfield each added nine points.
The freshmen were solid as well. Williamson notched eight points and five rebounds. Moody finished with eight points and seven assists. Kileah Mays and Fallon Ellis combined to grab 16 rebounds.
Moody gets the start
Friday was a night of firsts for point guard Nikki Moody. The Iowa State freshman started her first game, scored her first points and made her first official impression on the Cyclone faithful.
On Iowa State’s first possession of the season, Moody drilled a 3-pointer from the top of the key.
“It was exciting,” Moody said. “I had fun playing.”
It didn’t take Moody long to prove she belongs. The Euless, Texas native finished with eight points and seven assists. More importantly, she only turned the ball over one time.
In fact, the Cyclones seem to play at a different speed with Moody at point guard. The last possession of the first half perfectly summed up Moody’s night. She sped the length of the court before making a nifty pass to Hallie Christofferson for an easy layup and a 38-16 Iowa State advantage.
“I liked her game, I did,” Fennelly said. “Nikki gives us some energy, some speed. She can see the floor. Seven assists, one turnover – that’s pretty good numbers.
“We struggle on shot selection a little bit and when to be ready to shoot. We are real big here on never be surprised when you are open. Sometimes, we weren’t ready to shoot. I think we can shoot the ball better than we did tonight. For her first Division 1 game, I thought she was good.”
With the season just getting started, Moody should keep getting better.
– Iowa State has made a 3-pointer in a NCAA record 518-straight games. The streak dates back to the 1995 season – the year before Bill Fennelly became head coach. The Cyclones struggled from behind the arc on Friday, making 8-of-33 attempts.
– Bill Fennelly is still perfect in season openers at Iowa State after Friday’s 73-33 win. The Cyclones are 17-0 with Fennelly at the helm.
– Official attendance for Friday’s game was 10,100.
– Chelsea Poppens reached double figures in rebounds with 11. Fallon Ellis also pulled off the feat with 10 boards.
Bill Fennelly should have fond memories from last year’s tilt with Drake. The Cyclones’ 64-46 victory was the 500th of his career.
That win came at Hilton Coliseum where the Cyclones haven’t lost a non-conference home game since the 2003-04 season. On Tuesday, Iowa State will travel to Des Moines where the Bulldogs traditionally play the Cyclones tough.
“Two years ago, we went down to Drake and it was maybe the worst performance of the year by a good team,” Fennelly said. “We had a really good team two years ago and they kicked our butt. We know, the coaches know, and the kids that are back know, our freshmen have no idea what’s going to happen Tuesday night. Hopefully, in practice we can get them ready.”
Tipoff is scheduled for 5 p.m. with the Iowa State men’s team playing Drake after the women’s game.