By Ian Smith, CycloneFanatic.com Contributor
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AMES – Bill Fennelly is never satisfied, but after Tuesday night the Iowa State coach can smile.
His Cyclones dismantled Northern Iowa, 84-57. The victory improves Iowa State’s record to 7-2 this season as the Cyclones swept their instate rivals for the first time since 2007-08.
“For 30 minutes, I thought it was the best we’ve played all year,” Fennelly said.
The performance was so dominate the only real question after halftime was how much the Cyclones would win by. Iowa State built a 16-point advantage at the break before cruising to the victory.
“We knew we had to finish (before the holiday break),” Nikki Moody said.
Game balls could be given to nearly every player in Cardinal and Gold. Chelsea Poppens returned from an knee injury to destroy the Panthers. The junior finished with 20 points, 14 rebounds and more hustle plays than you count.
“With Poppens, you wish every single kid on your team played that hard,” Fennelly said. “Everybody on the bench says that all the time. She’s a living, breathing example of, if you play hard, good things happen.”
The Cyclones fed off Poppens’ energy. Anna Prins also came back from injury to chip in 12 points. Freshmen Nikki Moody and Brynn Williamson showed their numerous talents. Hallie Christofferson was her normal steady self and Fallon Ellis flashed her scoring potential.
Iowa State shot 51 percent from the field, made eight 3-pointers and outrebounded the Panthers 48-20.
After roughly the first eight minutes of the game, it was all Cyclones. Poppens’ turnaround bucket with 11:32 left gave Iowa State a 20-13 lead. That’s as close as the Panthers would get the rest of the game.
Moody drilled a pair of 3-pointers to push the Cyclones in front 35-20. Later, Lauren Mansfield swished a trey for a 42-25 edge.
The onslaught continued after halftime as Poppens, Prins, Ellis and Christofferson all scored in the early minutes to turn the game into a blowout.
Player of the game
Chelsea Poppens is a one woman wrecking crew. Get in her way at your own risk.
A heavy brace on Poppens’ right knee had little affect on her bruising style as she dominated Northern Iowa on Tuesday night. The junior finished with 20 points, 14 rebounds, 4 assists and two drawn charges. Oh yeah, Poppens accomplished those numbers in only 20 minutes of court time.
That’s impressive considering Bill Fennelly said afterward that Poppens is only playing at about 75 percent after suffering a MCL sprain against Iowa.
“Every time we see Coach (Paul) Rhoads, he’s joking that he wants her on special teams," Fennelly said. "She’s as tough as a kid as we’ve had here."
Paired with a healthy Anna Prins and Hallie Christofferson inside, Poppens couldn’t be stopped against the Panthers. After missing Iowa State’s last game, Poppens came off the bench Tuesday and immediately asserted herself. Poppens wrapped up a double-double by halftime with 12 points and 10 rebounds.
She set the tone in one flurry when she scored inside to give the Cyclones an 8-7 advantage and drew a charge on the other end of the floor.
“She is a phenomenal player and it has everything to do with how hard she plays the game,” Northern Iowa coach Tanya Warren said.
Poppens continued to dominate. When she wasn’t spinning around defenders to score, the Aplington native was chasing after rebounds. This season, Poppens is one of three Big 12 players averaging a double-double with 14.4 points and 11.6 rebounds.
“I was eager to get back into it after missing last game,” Poppens said. “I wanted to get back out there and play my best.”
As her right knee continues to heal, expect Poppens to keep going all-out. It’s the only way she knows how to play.
Moody continues to progress
Big 12 coaches should be frightened – Nikki Moody is scary good.
Only a freshman, Moody should haunt league opponents for the next four years. On Tuesday, Moody scored 15 points and dished out five assists. The Euless, Texas native hit 6-of-8 shots and 3-of-5 3-pointers against Northern Iowa.
“I think we were moving the ball really well,” Moody said. “We just passed it and played as a team. It worked for us.”
There’s no question Moody’s always had talent, but now she’s learning to harness her skills. Instead of forcing the issue, Moody played within the offense on Tuesday and put on a show.
With unparalleled court vision, Moody sees scoring opportunities other players can’t imagine. She helped Iowa State pull away in the second half when she found Anna Prins under the hoop for an easy bucket and 56-32 advantage. A few possessions later, she hit Fallon Ellis with a no-look pass for another layup.
“I thought our guards were very good with our timing and getting people the ball at the right time,” Fennelly said.
Moody’s growth is huge with Big 12 play looming.
– Iowa State improved to 17-0 all time against Northern Iowa at Hilton Coliseum and 32-8 overall. The win also improved the Cyclones non-conference win streak at home to 62 games.
– Poppens needs just 47 rebounds to move into 10th place all-time at Iowa State.
– Jessica Schroll did not play on Tuesday after suffering a back injury in practice.
– Official attendance was 7,822.
The Cyclones will return to the court after the holiday break on Dec. 28 when Iowa State takes on New Hampshire. The tilt is part of the Cyclone Challenge with New Jersey Institute of Technology (NJIT) and Boston squaring off in the first game.
The Wildcats are 5-4 on the season after downing Rhode Island 52-33 in their last game. New Hampshire – which is on a three-game winning streak – is led by Morgan Frame’s 15 points per game. Denise Bellveau averages 12.8 points for the Wildcats.
Tipoff is scheduled for approximately 7:30 p.m. Iowa State will take on the winner of NJIT and Boston the next night.