On Monday night, the Iowa State women’s basketball team used a 34-0 run to pull away from Howard in the first round of the Cyclone Challenge. On Tuesday night, 34-0 had a different meaning.
Iowa State (9-2) defeated the UC-Riverside Highlanders (8-5) 71-54 Tuesday in the final Cyclone Challenge game ever to be played, giving the Cyclones a 34-0 record in the event under head coach Bill Fennelly.
“No one hosts an event, of any kind, better than Iowa State and Ames,” Fennelly said. “It’s incredible the way people work and embrace people that come into our community and our university. It’s been fun to have it and I’m glad it ended the way it did.”
After struggling early against Howard on Monday, it was important for the Cyclones to get out to a fast start against the Highlanders. They were able to do just that as Iowa State scored the game’s first eight points, including back-to-back threes by senior guard Brynn Williamson and freshman center Bryanna Fernstrom.
Even though the offense was clicking early on for the Cyclones, Fennelly said it was the defense that caused the fast start.
“We really guarded really hard the first four minutes,” Fennelly said. “I thought we were smart, efficient. I think our kids accepted the challenge.”
The Highlanders entered the game with one of the top scorers in the nation in junior guard Brittany Crain, who was averaging 23.6 points per game entering play. The Cyclones accepted the challenge and held Crain to 16 points on just 5-of-14 shooting.
“There’s not many times when a kid comes into your building as the seventh leading scorer in the country and has scored over 30 points four times,” Fennelly said. “Our kids watched them yesterday, so they were excited. They were excited to guard. We challenged them to guard a certain way. They did it.”
Iowa State’s offense was led by senior guard Nikki Moody (19 points, six rebounds and five assists) and sophomore forward Seanna Johnson (18 points and 13 rebounds).
Fennelly was pleased with Moody’s play offensively, especially since she had the tall task of guarding Crain on the other end.
“She’s the one that can create a lot of things for our team,” Fennelly said. “Defensively we asked her to guard Crain a little bit and so that was good. I thought she had two good days.”
Iowa State now turns its attention to the Big 12 and the Kansas State Wildcats, who will come to Hilton Coliseum on Saturday for a 1 p.m. tip.
The biggest question mark heading into Big 12 play for the Cyclones remains to be down low with Fernstrom (six points) and senior Fallon Ellis (two points) both playing only 12 minutes against UC-Riverside. Improving their play inside will be big in determining how successful the Cyclones are in the conference.
“They are key players for us,” Johnson said. “So getting them focused, that will help us a lot.”
Despite the questions that remain for Coach Fennelly’s team, he is happy to be heading into the second half of the season.
“Very pleased with our effort with a one-day turnaround,” Fennelly said with a smile. “Looking forward to moving on to playing Big 12 basketball.”
Buckley to play against Kansas State
Iowa State sophomore guard Jadda Buckley has sat out the last three games for the Cyclones but according to Coach Fennelly, she will make her return on Saturday against the Kansas State Wildcats.
“As of today she will be available Saturday in limited minutes,” Fennelly said. “I don’t know exactly what that means. But I let all the smart people handle that.”
Buckley suffered a “stress injury” in her right foot earlier this season and has not played since scoring 25 points against in-state rival Iowa. She is averaging 9.7 points per game this season.
*** Iowa State extended their NCAA-record streak to 623 consecutive games with a 3-pointer.
*** Nikki Moody now ranks 21st on Iowa State’s all-time scoring charts (1,104).
*** Seanna Johnson picked up her fourth double-double of the year and eighth of her career on Tuesday.