AMES — For the first time since 2013, the Iowa State women’s basketball team is moving onto the Round of 32. The team rolled to a victory on Saturday, beating the No. 14 seed New Mexico State 97-61 in Hilton Coliseum.
“The NCAA [Tournament] is supposed to be fun and today was fun,” Iowa State head coach Bill Fennelly said. “There was a phenomenal crowd, a phenomenal atmosphere, and the best part about it is that we get to play again.”
The win puts the Cyclones into the second round where they will face No. 11 Missouri State on Monday (8 p.m. on ESPN) after the Lady Bears upset DePaul in the 6-11 game.
If Iowa State plays as well as it did on Saturday, that one could get ugly too.
The Cyclones saw all five of their starters score in the first five minutes of the game, showing the type of versatile threat they bring to the floor.
“We have a lot of players that can make things happen,” senior Bridget Carleton said. “It’s hard to guard so many versatile players.”
On top of it, every single player on the Iowa State roster recorded points in the win.
“This game was so much fun because everyone was so involved,” Carleton said. “Every single person on this team played a role in this win. We just played together and that’s what’s so enjoyable.”
Coming into the game, Iowa State hadn’t played in 12 days since losing to No. 1 Baylor in the Big 12 championship on March 11. The Cyclones wanted to make a point of coming out of the gates as aggressively as they could.
“We talked about – going into the game – to just come out and make sure we give the energy first, just to give that first push of being in the tournament and getting started,” senior Alexa Middleton said.
Carleton, along with Madison Wise and Ashley Joens, all hit 3-pointers during the first half of the opening quarter, which got the crowd on its feet.
The big shots started a 10-0 run that put the Cyclones up 18-8 early.
New Mexico State was starting to creep back into things after back-to-back threes, but the team’s top scorer – Brooke Salas – had her playing time limited after picking up two fouls by the end of the first quarter.
“You always want all your fire power on the floor,” New Mexico State coach Brooke Atkinson said. “I probably played her a lot sooner than I would have normally, but I had faith with the kids on the floor, whether she was out there or not.”
That allowed Iowa State to take over. The Cyclones started the second quarter going on a 10-0 run to take a 36-18 lead three minutes into the frame.
By halftime, Iowa State had hung 50 on the Aggies and nearly doubled their score, leading 50-26.
The second half was all about the bench.
With 9:35 remaining in the fourth quarter, Carleton – along with the other starters – checked out of the game to put five faces on the floor that haven’t been there as much as of late.
One reserve was Adriana Camber. The Lund, Sweden native and former starter hit her first 3-pointer since January 19 to a large eruption of the Hilton Coliseum crowd.
“She was standing right in front of me during that play,” Carleton said. “I was yelling, ‘Spot up AD, spot up AD!’ Seeing her make that shot was a lot of fun for the team.”
Carleton led the team in scoring, finishing with 23 on the night and bringing her career total to 2,111 points. That mark is 38 points shy of tying the career scoring record at the school, which is owned by Angie Welle.
Iowa State will return to the court to face Missouri State Monday night for a spot in the Sweet 16 at 8:00 p.m. The game will be live on ESPN.