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AMES – There’s no place like home, especially when it’s Hilton Coliseum.
Iowa State (6-1) returned to Ames and trounced Fairfield, 60-43, on Sunday. The victory was the Cyclones 69th-straight non-conference win inside Hilton.
More importantly, Chelsea Poppens returned to action for the first time since Nov. 23 when she suffered a concussion. Poppens scored 12 points and grabbed nine rebounds against the Stags.
“I got a little fired up too when the fans gave her an ovation,” Hallie Christofferson said. “You could definitely feel her presence. She went there and started right where she ended.”
Boosted by Poppens’ return, the No. 22-ranked Cyclones bounced back from an ugly loss at Iowa, their first of the season. Iowa State nearly matched their point total against the Hawkeyes (42) by halftime (40), and racked up 21 assists on 25 field goals after notching just seven assists at Iowa.
“In the first half, we didn’t turn the ball over and we made shots and we scored 40,” Iowa State Bill Fennelly said. “That’s like an explosion for us.”
The Cyclones quickly erased any lingering offensive funk by leaning on Hallie Christofferson and Brynn Williamson. Christofferson asserted herself early. The junior made her first five shots to push Iowa State ahead 20-7.
With Christofferson doing her damage inside, Williamson took advantage of some open looks to hit three first half treys. On the last 3-pointer, Anna Prins made an extra pass to Williamson for a 31-19 advanatge.
“We talked about that tonight, after coming out in the Iowa game so sluggish like we did, tonight we had to come out focused and get off to a good start,” Christofferson said.
Iowa State took a 40-28 lead into halftime and cruised to the win from there behind its stellar defense. Fairfield scored just 15 points after the break and made only five field goals.
That shouldn’t be much of a surprise, the Cyclones entered Sunday’s game ranked first nationally in field goal percentage defense (28.4 percent). The Stags didn’t fare much better, making 32.7 percent of their shots against Iowa State’s stingy defense.
Christofferson led all scorers with 18 points on Sunday. Williamson chipped in 12 on four 3-pointers.
Playing in her 100th game as a Cyclone, Chelsea Poppens might have been more fired up than ever. That’s because she was playing for the first time since Nov. 23 when she suffered a nasty concussion.
“She was pretty juiced up to play,” Fennelly said.
“I’m glad we got her in today. If her first game back was at UNI, in front of her family and friends, oh my goodness, we’d have to sedate her probably before the game. I’m glad she got her minutes today.”
All things considered, it was a successful return. Poppens came off the bench on Sunday and scored her first points minutes later, She finished with 12 points and snared nine rebounds. The senior also had her usual handful of hustle plays.
At one point during Sunday’s action, Poppens lost her contact lens. Undeterred, she search the floor, found the contact, and put it right back in before swishing two free throws.
It was a heck of a lot better than sitting helpless on the bench like on Thursday at Iowa.
“I don’t have any nails left,” Poppens said. “It stunk to sit there and watch it.”
– Point guard Nikki Moody has five or more assists in all six games she has played in this season. The sophomore notched 10 assists on Sunday. Not only that, Moody had seven rebounds and four points.
“I think Nikki’s floor game today was really good,” Fennelly said.
– Official attendance on Sunday was 11,745.
– Anna Prins had eight points and seven rebounds against the Stags.
– Iowa State now has an eight day break before playing Northern Iowa on Jan. 17.