AMES — On Sunday afternoon at Hilton Coliseum, the Iowa State women’s basketball team dominated the Arkansas State Red Wolves, 105-53, to move to 5-0 on the season.
One would assume players like Seanna Johnson and Jadda Buckley, who have been Iowa State’s primary scorers, were the main reasons why Iowa State put up such a ridiculous number. Although the two scored 18 and 14 points, respectively, they weren’t the tandem that led the Cyclones to victory.
All season, ISU coach Bill Fennelly has stressed that he doesn’t want Johnson grabbing all the rebounds for the Cyclones. Against Arkansas State, Johnson wasn’t Iowa State’s leading rebounder.
Early on in the game, starting center, Meredith Burkhall’s performance was cold.
“She missed her first three shots,” Fennelly said on Burkhall’s opening minutes. “Defensively, I thought she wasn’t competing at the level she should.”
Since Burkhall wasn’t playing at the status Fennelly wanted her too, he took her out. Once on the bench, assistant coaches Billy Fennelly and Latoja Schaben, talked to her.
After Billy and Schaben spoke to Burkhall, something clicked. Burkhall was more aggressive.
She was hustling and fighting for rebounds. She was hitting easy jumpers and layups she had missed early on. After going scoreless in the first quarter and only grabbing one board, Burkhall tallied 13 points and four rebounds in the second ten minute period.
Coming out of halftime, Burkhall’s aggressiveness continued. She claimed six more boards and five more points in the third quarter, putting her at a total of 18 points and 11 rebounds on the day. Entering the last 10 minutes of the game, the Cyclones were up by so much–80-42–they didn’t need her efforts anymore, so Burkhall sat for the majority of the fourth quarter.
“To see her play that way and that efficient, and do the things she did, that’s huge for our team,” Fennelly said.
After the game, Burkhall stated that her mindset was to go in and grab every rebound and box out. That mentality certainly translated as she claimed her second career double-double.
Now, the competition Burkhall will face down in the post will get significantly better as the season progresses. But as Fennelly said during his postgame press conference, Burkhall needed some confidence. With this type of performance, she definitely gained some.
While Burkhall was the glass cleaner for Iowa State against Arkansas State, Emily Durr, ISU’s first player off the bench, was the spark that finally got the train going.
Nearly halfway through the first quarter, Iowa State was only up 6-4. The Cyclones were sloppy. Not so great look here and a turnover there.
Then Durr came in.
At the 5:06 mark in the first quarter, Durr received a pass from Buckley in the left hand corner. She clutched it and released.
Splash. A 3-pointer. From there on in the first half, Durr was setting fire to the nets.
A couple seconds after her first three, Durr splashed in another. She went go into halftime with 13 points, while shooting a perfect 5-of-5 from the field.
“My teammates put me in good positions,” Durr said on her shooting performance. “I had a lot of confidence.”
While Durr was a scoring machine during the first 20 minutes, she slightly cooled off in the second-half. Durr only attempted three shots, making two of them for five more points to finish the day with 18.
Although Durr was definitely Iowa State’s best shooter on Sunday, the Cyclones as a team were shooting lights out. Iowa State shot 57.4-percent from the field and 52.2-percent from behind the 3-point line.
All season long, the Cyclones have shot below their typical standards. Fennelly is hoping this performance sparks a good stretch of team shooting for Iowa State as it enters the tougher portion of its non-conference schedule.
“Our team hasn’t shot it great,” Fennelly said on his team’s shooting performance so far this season. “But today, we did a good job at identifying people who were open.”