AMES — It felt like junior guard Seanna Johnson’s injured knee wouldn’t slow down the Iowa State women’s basketball team when Emily Durr knocked down a 3-pointer to give the Cyclones (11-8, 3-5 Big 12) a 26-21 lead over TCU (12-8, 4-5 Big 12) with 4:51 left in the second quarter Wednesday night at Hilton Coliseum.
That feeling didn’t last long.
On the next possession, TCU’s Carol Willie drove to the hoop and scored. Then she knocked down one of two free throws. A few possessions later, Zahna Medley scored at the rim to tie the game. She made a pair of free throws to put TCU in the lead. Torree Thompson made a layup and then Jada Butts did the same. Iowa State head coach Bill Fennelly had to get a timeout.
It was an 11-0 run that gave the Horned Frogs control that turned into a 17-2 run to close the half. They didn’t relinquish control on their way to a 72-62 win in front of 9,983 fans to hand the Cyclones their fourth straight loss.
“Basketball’s a game you’ve got to make shots,” Fennelly said. “Our team can’t make shots. When you shot the way we shot tonight, you’re not going to beat anybody, I don’t care who it is. I thought TCU was good tonight. They’re well coached. They play hard but sometimes the stat sheets tell the whole story. I think the stat sheet tells a pretty big story tonight.”
Johnson, who suffered a right knee injury in Iowa State’s loss to Baylor last Saturday, was almost completely negated on the night scoring just three points on 1-of-11 shooting. She did grab 11 rebounds but she just wasn’t her usual explosive self.
Without her ability to drive to the basket and create, the Cyclones’ offense became a shell of itself.
“She tried to play,” Fennelly said. “Obviously didn’t play very well but she tried and you’ve got to give a kid credit for going out there and competing and doing the best she could. She just didn’t have her normal game tonight.”
The usually open driving lanes were clogged for sophomore guard Jadda Buckley and freshman Bridget Carleton. The open 3-pointers created by the attention Johnson draws weren’t there.
On the night, the Cyclones shot just 30.8 percent from the field and 24.1 percent from behind the 3-point line. Only two players shot better than 50 percent (freshman Meredith Burkhall was 6-of-10 and senior Madi Baier was 1-of-2).
“You never want to discredit their defense,” Fennelly said. “But they weren’t guarding the free throw line, we missed eight. I’d say of the 22 threes we missed, 16 or 17 of them, well the one play Emily Durr shot three in a row and there wasn’t anyone near her. It looked like they were letting her score. It’s all shots. It doesn’t matter. They shoot 62 percent the second half, we shoot 26 (percent). In the second and third quarter, we go eight for 35. I don’t care who you’re playing against, that’s awful.”
There isn’t another player on Iowa State’s roster that can do the things on a basketball court that Johnson can. There aren’t many college basketball players in the country that can do what Johnson’s been doing this season.
On Wednesday night, that became glaringly clear as one Iowa State possession after another ended in a contested shot.
The door is open for players like Carleton (23 points and 11 rebounds) and Burkhall (12 points and four rebounds) to prove that they can be premier players at this level. Iowa State desperately needs someone to step up and they’ve shown they have that ability at times this season.
“If Bridget doesn’t do what she does the game’s not even competitive,” Fennelly said. “No one else could score, could make a shot. (Burkhall) hit a couple shots but defensively she’s really struggling right now, and on the boards. So I thought Bridget had a really good second half. She wanted the ball, she hunted some shots. Hit some tough ones.”
There seems to be a lot more questions than answers this week for Iowa State women’s basketball but that isn’t really anything new. It hasn’t been a secret all season that they are young and they play some inexperienced players in key roles.
There just comes a point when the young players need to show what they are really made of.
That point has come as the Cyclones prepare for No. 19 Oklahoma to roll into Ames on Saturday.