Ashley Joens scored the first 10 points for Iowa State in Thursday’s season-opening win against Southern.
Following that run in the first couple minutes, however, the Cyclones had trouble finding a rhythm in the 69-36 victory.
“The next five minutes [after the opening 14-2 stretch] were really, really, really bad,” Iowa State head coach Bill Fennelly said. “Luckily they didn’t score either.”
Joens would finish the game as Iowa State’s leading scorer, tallying 23 points and six rebounds in what was a solid start to the season for the sophomore.
Although, the Cyclones would have to settle for a 14-8 score at the end of the first quarter.
It wasn’t until Southern tried to speed the game up that the Cyclones could go back and find their rhythm.
“They did a good job of speeding us up,” Fennelly said. “Styles make fights. Their style was completely different than [our] style. When they got to play the way they wanted to play, we didn’t handle it. When we played the way we want to play, we moved the ball. We got shots. That’s why these games are good, you can’t simulate that in practice.”
Thursday night also saw the return of one of Iowa State’s leading scorers from last season in Kristin Scott.
The junior was battling a back injury from the off-season and was on a minute restriction according to Fennelly.
“It was 15,” Fennelly said. “That’s what we decided. She played five minutes each in the first three quarters. I think, initially, you could tell it was a kid that hadn’t practiced in two and a half weeks. She practiced a little on Tuesday, but it was [only] a 40-minute half-court thing.”
After the slow start for Scott, she seemed to be back to form, at least as much as one could expect her to be.
In 15 minutes of play, Scott had eight points, six rebounds, and four blocks.
“That kid changes our team,” Fennelly said. “She’s the best player on our team. When you haven’t practiced and you just have to run out there and play, I don’t care what you’re doing in life, it’s a really hard thing to do.”
Fennelly said he and his staff would wait and see how Scott feels tomorrow and this weekend to determine how long she would play in their next game.
The only thing Fennelly guaranteed was that she wouldn’t be playing minutes like Bridget Carleton was last season, quite yet.
“We’re not going to be able to run her out there for 30 minutes, but 15 minutes from her helps us in a lot of ways,” Fennelly said.
Overall, it wasn’t the smoothest game for the Cyclones, but they did get out of it with a win.
That’s something Fennelly said his team would need to do this year that differs from a season ago.
“Last year’s team was a little more aesthetic,” Fennelly said. “This year’s team has to do it a little more the old-fashioned way. Part of that is how we defend.”
The Cyclones ended the game with 20 turnovers, 10 of which came in the first quarter.
Point guard Rae Johnson had five of them at the end of the first half.
“I didn’t think the way we handled the ball in the first half was very good,” Fennelly said. “But like I mentioned, [Johnson] turns [the ball] over five times and in the second half doesn’t turn it over. That’s a kid that learns.”
Johnson finished the night, however, with five assists as well as eight points and a perfect 5-5 mark from the free-throw line.
Fennelly said that the way she is currently playing has won her the starting point guard job, at least for now.
Being a baseball fan, Fennelly revealed how he would go about playing Johnson as well as the other point guards in the coming weeks.
“We don’t really have a starter,” Fennelly said. “Rae’s the opener.”
He’s comparing it to baseball teams planning to use multiple pitchers in a game where they will start one that isn’t expected to play an extended amount of time, and instead see how they play early on.
“We need to cut those off [so] that we can get more possessions,” Johnson said. “We bounced back in the second half and we scored a lot. The more possessions, the more opportunity to score.”
Iowa State’s focus now turns to Drake as the Cyclones face off with a fellow in-state rival that received votes in the first AP Top Women’s Top 25 poll on Sunday.
The two will play on Sunday afternoon in Des Moines at the Knapp Center on Mediacom Channel 22 as well as ESPN+.
“69 points is really on the edge of being enough in most games,” Fennelly said. “It won’t be enough on Sunday.”