AMES — During his press conference on Monday, Iowa State women’s basketball coach Bill Fennelly said Kansas senior forward Chelsea Gardner would be a first-round pick in the WNBA Draft.
On Wednesday night in Hilton Coliseum, she played like one.
Gardner scored 23 points and grabbed 11 rebounds to lead the Jayhawks (12-9, 3-5 Big 12) to a 61-56 over the Cyclones – Iowa State’s first loss this season at Hilton Coliseum, which snapped a three-game winning streak.
“They played a great game,” Fennelly said. “They came in and competed, as we knew they would.”
The Cyclones (14-5, 5-3 Big 12) started slow offensively and trailed 22-17 with 2:18 left in the first half. Then, the Cyclones started a 13-0 run spanning the end of the first half and the first two minutes of the second to give them their largest lead of the game at 30-22.
The Jayhawks then went on a 27-19 run to tie the game back up at 49. It was back and forth from then on out.
“Offensively the last 10 minutes we just didn’t do anything that we’d talked about,” Fennelly said. “We talked about take the ball and the big guy and if she helps jump stop and kick it. We’d shoot it right into her hand or shy away from the contact. That’s stuff that they did really well and stuff that we didn’t. Those are the things that our team has to do.”
With 3:36 to play in the half, the Cyclones found themselves trailing by just two after a pair of Nikki Moody free throws. The Cyclones got a stop on the defensive end and had the ball with a chance to tie.
Moody turned the ball over and the Jayhawks got a fast break layup to go back up by four.
Iowa State was able to pull back within one at 57-56 and had the ball with 13 seconds left. The Cyclones’ 20th and final turnover of the night cut the possession short.
“We just weren’t very strong with the ball,” Fennelly said about his team’s turnovers. “We talked for two days about where the ball needs to go on dribble penetration and we just refused to do that. When that happens you’re going to turn the ball over.”
Senior Natalie Knight knocked down a pair of free throws for Kansas. A Moody 3-point attempt was no good. Chelsea Gardner grabbed the rebound and was fouled. She knocked down both free throws.
The Jayhawks finished the game on a 10-5 run. Junior guard Kidd Blaskowsky said she didn’t think the energy was there for Iowa State from the beginning.
“On this team, we have to come into every game with the same mentality,” Blaskowsky said. “Whether it’s Texas, whether it’s Baylor, Kansas, K-State, low to high we have to come ready to go. And tonight, obviously, we weren’t.”
According to Coach Fennelly, if a lack of energy was the issue, then something would have to change.
“If that’s the case there’s either something really wrong with the head coach or there’s something wrong with the players,” Fennelly said. “You’re not ready to play, or you don’t have energy in this building, in this game? Like I said, it’s the head coach who’s got to figure that out or the players, one of the two or both.”
Junior forward Seanna Johnson led the team with 15 points and added eight rebounds. Moody, 13 points and 11 assists, and Blaskowsky, 11 points and nine rebounds, were the Cyclones in double-figures.
The loss ended an 11-game home winning streak for Iowa State.
How do the Cyclones bounce back before Oklahoma State comes to town on Saturday?
“We show up tomorrow at one o’clock ready to go,” Blaskowsky said. “Nobody feels sorry for themselves, we’ve got Oklahoma State here on Saturday and that’s the next game and our next focus.”