With Christmas break looming right around the corner, the objective for Iowa State’s women’s basketball team was to not overlook the game they played on Wednesday night.
Essentially, “Don’t play down to your opponents,” was the message to the team from Iowa State head coach Bill Fennelly.
The team heard it loud and clear.
Iowa State strutted out to a 50-10 lead by the end of the first half that turned into a 94-46 victory for the Cyclones.
“It’s huge [to get out to a fast start],” Fennelly said. “Every coach worries about this game. Obviously, we’re a better team and we should win the game, but these games are just hard. I think our seniors have done a good job at getting us ready and getting off to that start.”
Ashley Joens led the way for the Cyclones finishing with 22 points while shooting a perfect 7-of-7 from the field.
The 22-point mark was a career best for Joens, who played just 23 minutes in the blowout.
“It feels great, but without my teammates getting me the ball when I’m open, none of it would have been possible,” Joens said.
Bridget Carleton made some noise in the first half as well.
The senior all-American was well on pace for a quadruple-double earning seven points, eight boards, five assists, and five steals before halftime. Again, however, with the score being as separated as it was, Carleton checked out and didn’t play in the second half.
The lopsided score gave the Cyclones an opportunity to try some things they wouldn’t normally run in a bigger game.
One came with 2.7 seconds to play in the first half.
Iowa State had the ball at its own baseline, and Madison Wise was tasked with throwing a hail-Mary pass to the opposite three-point line where Adriana Camber was standing. Camber would tip pass it to Nia Washington for a 3-pointer.
The shot didn’t go in, but it was a unique set that got the Cyclones a good shot in under three seconds.
“We practice that every single shootaround,” Fennelly said. “It’s the way we end our shootarounds. The ball when out of bounds, 2.7 seconds to go. Let’s run it. The kids ran it perfectly, and we got a great look at the three. [Camber] made a great pass, [Wise] made a good decision, and in that setting, you want to get a good look.”
In the second half, Iowa State barely played its starters and got a lot of playing time for some players who haven’t seen the floor a ton this season.
That was even more so true on Wednesday than in some of the other blowouts earlier in the season, where the starters were getting more time to get things sorted out for the year.
“Absolutely, [I’m watching those players closely],” Fennelly said. “It’s their interview. Whether it’s foul trouble, matchups, or someone getting hurt at some point. You want to have kids that are ready. It’s an opportunity for them.”
Standing out in the final two quarters were the likes of Inés Nezerwa and Jade Thurmon. The pair of Cyclones showed extra presence on two different aspects of the game in the Cyclones big win.
Nezerwa played one of the best games she has had this season, missing out on her career high by four points and finishing with 11 points on 4-of-5 shooting from the field.
“She’s shown flashes,” Fennelly said. “We’re just trying to get her [to be] more consistent. It’s nice to see her get 16 minutes and get through some fatigue. I thought she was really good.
Thurmon on the other hand utilized her speed while she was playing – something she is known for and a big reason why Fennelly recruited the former JUCO star.
She finished the night with three points, three steals, three assists, and a block in 13 minutes of action.
“I think she’s getting better,” Fennelly said. “Obviously, the level is hard for her. Sometimes I think she doesn’t use her speed, but when she does, she’s effective and can do some things. I think the challenge for her and for any plyer new to this level, is that you’ve got to stay the course. I think she’s going to impact our team. I really do.”
The win improves Iowa State’s mark to 9-2 on the season and 8-0 at home going into a winter break that Fennelly called, “well deserved.”
“Our record shows that we’ve stuck to it,” Kristin Scott said. “We’ve been confident in our play, and knowing that we had that break coming up makes you want to work harder. Now, it’s here. Now, we get to get some rest.”
Iowa State will return to the court at Hilton Coliseum on December 29, when they take on Bucknell at 1:00pm. The game will be televised by Cyclones.tv.