DES MOINES – From the moment the lights dimmed, the crowd roared and flames shot out of the top of the backboard during the starting lineups, it was clear the Iowa State women’s basketball team was going to be in for a fight Sunday afternoon at the Knapp Center against the Drake Bulldogs.
The game was like a boxing match featuring two fighters that were trading blows. Two teams trading runs, threes and transition layups.
The Cyclones (1-1) shot poorly the whole game. Drake made shots when they had to. They were there to answer every Iowa State run.
Bulldogs 74, Cyclones 70.
“The game is not that hard,” Iowa State head coach Bill Fennelly said. “When you miss 52 shots and you get zero out of your post game, you’re not going to win. I don’t care who we play. We got beat by a better team.”
The Cyclones shot just 33 percent from the field. They shot 24 percent from behind the arc, and an abysmal 3-20 from deep in the second half. They missed nine straight shots on two separate occasions.
Their three young posts, freshmen Meredith Burkhall and Claire Ricketts plus sophomore Bryanna Fernstrom, combined to score two points on 1-of-7 shooting with six rebounds and a steal.
The Cyclones were playing with four potential scorers on the floor while seemingly everyone for the Bulldogs was a threat.
“Most of the time, it’s about want to,” Fennelly said about his bigs. “Is this motivation to get better or an excuse to feel sorry for yourself? That’s the way the world works. If we’re not embarrassed or disappointed, whatever the word is, in our performance in the post, then we’re all wasting our time. We got nothing.”
The Bulldogs led by as much as 12 during the game and their lead was 10 with 2:42 to play, but the Cyclones were there to answer nearly every run.
When Drake led by nine with two minutes to play in the first half, the Cyclones scored 14-0 straight to take a five-point lead three minutes into the second half. That was their last lead of the day.
Every time the Cyclones seemed to be taking control, Drake was there to halt the momentum.
“Iowa State is a very, very talented basketball team,” Drake coach Jennie Baranczyk said. “They’re going to be a top 25 team. There’s no question in my mind that they’ll be a top 25 team by the end of this season.”
Junior forward Seanna Johnson continued to shine for Iowa State scoring 16 points and grabbing 16 rebounds. She shot just 7-of-22 from the field, but at times put the team on her back in order to pull them back in the game.
Coach Baranczyk said she is impossible to prepare for.
“She’s so incredibly talented, she’s athletic, she’s versatile, she can shoot the three,” Baranczyk said. “I think she should have been a preseason pick too, but I don’t get a vote in the Big 12. She can do it all.”
Sophomore Jadda Buckley led the way scoring for the Cyclones with 18 points, also adding six assists, while senior Kidd Blaskowsky, 12 points on four 3-pointers, and freshman Bridget Carleton, 11 points and 12 boards, all joined in double-figures.
Iowa State leaves this fight bruised and battered. The shots didn’t fall. The production wasn’t there.
It happens. Fennelly summed it up perfectly.
Things I liked
The legend of Seanna Johnson just continues to grow. During the offseason it seemed like she was primed for a breakout junior season, but I’m not sure anyone saw this coming. She was all over the floor the whole afternoon for Iowa State.
Not many women’s basketball players are grabbing 16 rebounds, which is 11th all-time at Iowa State for boards in a single game. She has gotten better with each game ISU has played this season.
I’m not sure what how she’ll top this, but it’s hard to believe she won’t somehow.
I’m not sure I’ve seen Iowa State be as aggressive on the offensive glass as they were on Sunday. The Cyclones grabbed 19 offensive boards and that played a crucial role in them taking 10 more shots than the Bulldogs.
The Cyclones most likely won’t have 52 misses to clean up very often, but being able to create extra possessions could be huge for ISU moving forward.
I wasn’t sure what Iowa State was going to get from Starks after she missed both exhibitions, but I have been thoroughly impressed so far. She scored nine points on 4-4 shooting from the floor and grabbed six boards off the bench.
She was so good, and the posts played so poorly, that she even started the second half. She is versatile and has the ability to be the primary ball-handler, set up shop on the wing or elbow, or battle down low in the post.
I would expect to see more and more of her as the non-conference schedule rolls on.
Things I didn’t like
The Cyclones haven’t shot the ball very well in any of their games so far this season, but I don’t think anyone saw Sunday afternoon coming. There were times when it seemed like there was a lid permanently stuck on the rim.
Iowa State just couldn’t buy a bucket.
Give Drake credit, their defense was solid, but the Cyclones missed a lot of open looks too. I’m not sure what it will take to fix this, but I’m sure the gears in Coach Fennelly’s head are spinning to try and find out.
I’m not sure what I can say here that Coach Fennelly didn’t already. It was a rough night for Iowa State’s players down low. Drake was physical and long. It caused all three of Iowa State’s primary posts problems at different times.
The biggest problem in my mind is, they’ll see players that are longer and more physical down the road. Just think about some of the centers that will roll into town with Baylor, Texas or Oklahoma.
Hopefully this was a wake up call. Will the Cyclones answer the call next Sunday when New Orleans rolls into Hilton Coliseum for a 2 p.m. tip?
I guess we’ll find out.