Jan 23, 2016; Ames, IA, USA; Iowa State Cyclones head coach Bill Fennelly reacts during the first half against the Baylor Bears at James H. Hilton Coliseum. Mandatory Credit: Jeffrey Becker-USA TODAY Sports
AMES, Iowa. — After Iowa State’s 85-46 exhibition win over Briar Cliff, head coach Bill Fennelly stated his team had to correct two issues before its home opener against the UC-Santa Barbara Gauchos: be a more committed possession-to-possession defense and not to rely so heavily on Seanna Johnson in the rebounding category. Against the Gauchos, the Cyclones fixed those issues as they won comfortably, 77-60, in front of a high-energy home crowd.
The Cyclones were lights out defensively in the first ten minutes. They were getting steal after steal, as they forced eight first quarter turnovers. Iowa State kept that pressure throughout the entire 40 minutes.
“We never press and we got 15 steals,” Fennelly said on the amount of turnovers Iowa State created against UC-Santa Barbara.
Iowa State recorded more steals than 3-point attempts, which Fennelly believes has never happened with his team before. While Iowa State was strong defensively, it was also powerful offensively. In the first quarter, the Cyclones shot a blistering 70.6-percent from the field.
In the second, Iowa State kept the train rolling as they jumped out to a 44-22 lead with 3:18 left before half. But in that last three-plus minutes, the Gauchos started to gain momentum.
“Basketball is a game of runs,” Johnson said. “And I think they had their run at that very moment. And I think we just need to do a better job at communicating on defense.”
At the beginning of the second-half, the Cyclones made sure UC-Santa Barbara’s late second quarter momentum didn’t carry over to the third. After 30 minutes, Iowa State was comfortably ahead, 64-38.
In basketball, sometimes a sole player is a reason why a team wins a game. But for the Cyclones, everyone from the starters to the 10th person off the bench, contributed to their season opening victory.
Five players in the cardinal and gold tallied double-figures, Johnson, Jadda Buckley, Bridget Carleton, Meredith Burkhall and Heather Bowe. Not only did the majority of the team contribute to Iowa State’s point total, but they all helped in one area Fennelly wanted them to: the glass, as five Cyclones recorded four or more rebounds.
Johnson has been a rebounding machine during her time at Iowa State, she was the fastest player to ever record 800 boards, which happened this game. But against UC-Santa Barbara, she wasn’t even the team’s leading rebounder. Bowe led the team with eight.
While Bowe led the team in rebounds, she was also the game’s MVP.
During her first ever regular season game in the cardinal and gold, Bowe was all over the place. She tallied 12 points, but the most impressive thing was her steal total: eight.
“[Heather] finds a way to get it done,” Fennelly said on Bowe’s performance. “I don’t know, if we’ve ever had a player get seven steals as a post player.”
While the Vanderbilt import had an impressive debut as a Cyclone, she wasn’t the only one.
Although the stat sheet won’t reflect it, Fennelly believes freshman point guard Nia Washington— who tallied only two assists, one steal and a rebound–had a strong debut as well.
“I thought Heather and Nia were really good,” Fennelly said. “I thought Heather and Nia off the bench, were big parts in the way we played.”
While Iowa State got a complete performance out of everyone on offense and defense, Fennelly doesn’t expect this sort of outing to be the norm this season. He doesn’t believe the Cyclones will create 15 turnovers or block six shots per game and he certainly doesn’t believe Iowa State will average a mere eight three-point attempts per game.
But altogether, Fennelly was pleased from what he saw out of his team in the season opener.