Ashley Joens scored 30 points and recorded 20 rebounds in Iowa State’s 79-59 win over Texas Southern on Tuesday. The team improved to 2-1 on the season. Photo by Connor Ferguson.
Ashley Joens won her first Big 12 Player of the Week award earlier this week after her 30-point, 20-rebound performance against Texas Southern.
Her game was one of the better performances in the history of the conference, as she became one of four players in the league’s history to achieve 20 or more rebounds in a 30-point game.
“She’s been a monster,” coach Bill Fennelly said. “The start she is off to is incredible, and those numbers won’t continue at that level, but she’s going to have a chance to put up some big numbers.”
Now, the Cyclones return to Hilton for the first time since she had her notable night.
Iowa State had some hiccups when they were putting together the regular season schedule, so rather than heading to warmer pastures for Feast Week, the team welcomes Arkansas-Pine Bluff on Friday (6:30 p.m. CT) and New Orleans on Sunday (1:00 p.m. CT).
It’s not playing three games in three days in Maui, but Fennelly says it’s right up there with it.
“It’s never a bad thing to play at Hilton, ever,” Fennelly said. “We were lucky with that. Just the way the schedule fell, we had some issues. We’re not in the Bahamas but the next best thing is here.”
Fennelly hopes his team can get into more of a rhythm as the amount of games picks up a little bit, and the schedule features less gaps between them.
He’s hoping that Joens, however, can stay in the same rhythm she’s been in through four games. Joens is currently pacing the Big 12 in scoring, averaging 24.3 points per game.
“If you think about it, she’s [only] four games into her sophomore year in college,” Fennelly said. “I think she’s someone that can just get better and better.”
Even though it’s a small sample size and that number will be a bit deflated by the end of the regular season, it’s still a big jump up from her 11.7 points per game last season.
Although, the glaring stat when looking at Joens’ jump from year one to year two, comes with rebounding.
Her 20-board performance was no fluke.
“That’s probably the biggest surprise,” Fennelly said. “You know she can score, but she’s really been someone that [goes all out] on those effort plays. I think she sees it as an opportunity to impact her team and impact scoring.”
Joens is averaging 12.3 rebounds per game, which is good enough for third in the Big 12.
It’s something the coaching staff has focused on early this season and something that Fennelly said the Cyclones need, right now.
“We’re not a great rebounding team, certainly, on the offensive end, but she’s given us a boost when we really needed it,” Fennelly said.
Joens said that part of the improvement just comes from giving a better effort and being older.
The improvement to year two in both categories has shown.
“It’s just giving that extra effort,” Joens said. “Being stronger and being faster, you can compete with these higher-level players a little more.”
Fennelly said, on Wednesday, that Joens is growing into the role of being a go-to player like they had a season ago in Bridget Carleton.
That’s something that he’s paying a lot of attention to during these home non-conference games against low-major teams.
“I think the biggest thing is trying to identify roles of people,” Fennelly said. “Right now, Rae Johnson has established herself as the point guard. We know what Kristin Scott and [Joens] are doing. We’ve got to get a little more consistent at other spots.”
Johnson is coming off of a career-high 16-point performance in Iowa State’s road game last Friday against NDSU.
Scott is a known scorer, but has been slowed down at the start of the season from an injury. Of course, for Joens it’s the exact opposite.
The rest is a fat question mark.
The other two starters in Adriana Camber and Madison Wise have combined for just 8.5 points per game.
While they have started off on the wrong end of things, freshman Maggie Espenmiller-McGraw has averaged 7.5 points per game and has been logging a lot of minutes off the bench.
Fennelly wants to get the rotation down and figure out these roles. Once that comes, it could improve his team drastically.
“I think the other thing [to look at] is being more efficient over time,” Fennelly said. “We’ve had some scoring droughts. We’ve got to quit turning the ball over [there]. If we turn it over [on Friday night] it’ll be a layup. They’re going to get up into us a little bit and pressure us.”
The Cyclones will tip off at 6:30 p.m. on Cyclones.tv for their Black Friday matchup, looking to figure some things out about themselves.