If it wasn’t for a career game from Ashley Joens, the Iowa State women’s basketball team would not have won its game on Sunday against Wright State – a 5-3 team from the Horizon League.
Instead, the Cyclones squeaked by with a 79-71 win thanks to a 41-point performance from the sophomore who leads the Big 12 in scoring.
“Any time you find a way to win, it’s a good thing,” Iowa State coach Bill Fennelly said. “Obviously, [Joens] was a monster. She played a phenomenal game. We’ve got a lot of things to correct.”
Iowa State went into halftime with a 15-point lead, and it looked like the Cyclones were going to be able to cruise to a seventh win.
That wasn’t the case though, as Wright State trimmed its deficit to a three-point game in the fourth quarter.
“After the Iowa game, there’s an emotional letdown a little bit,” Fennelly said. “We’ve got finals coming up. Besides the third quarter, we were okay.”
Joens finished the third quarter with only two points, and it allowed the Raiders to fight their way back into it.
Thanks to her 18-point final frame, though, Joens and the Cyclones pulled out a close one.
“I mean, it feels good, but we have a lot to work on still,” Joens said. “We just need to keep on playing and play hard every [game].”
Joens was one point away from tying Iowa State’s single-game scoring record set by Tonya Burns against Nebraska in 1984.
She ended the day hitting two free throws to tie Lindsey Wilson for second on the list at 41.
Joens had no idea until she made the first one.
“No, I didn’t know [how many points I had],” Joens said. “Not until the end when I made my free throw and everyone started cheering. I looked up and I saw it, but I just keep on playing, I don’t really think about anything else.”
That’s a typical answer for Joens, who made 15 of her 16 shots at the charity stripe.
Joens’ one miss was the Cyclones’ only one of the day from the line, as Iowa State made 25-26 to set a Hilton Coliseum record.
“It’s huge,” Joens said about the free throws being used to hold off Wright State. “I know I can make my free throws. I mean I shoot them in practice. It’s just like [that]. They’re called free throws for a reason.”
Although it was a career day for Joens, the eight-point victory was not encouraging for Iowa State.
Iowa State turned the ball over 19 times and needed 30 or more minutes from four of its players.
That’s where the migraine issue going on with Madison Wise has shown itself the most, according to Fennelly.
“We thought we could manage [her absence],” Fennelly said. “It’s become a much bigger loss than I think any of us anticipated. We need another person. We’ve been playing a lot of minutes with few kids. That’s where [Wise helped us a lot].”
Wise has missed each of the Cyclones’ past five games due to the migraines.
In the four games she played in the first part of the season, the Indiana native was averaging 25 minutes per game.
“She’s a two-year starter,” Fennelly said. “She’s a junior. She gets it. She gives us another defender and another scorer, so. Every team has issues, but I think right now – and there are a lot of things we need to fix, obviously – we’ve got to figure out a way to manage those 25 minutes.”
He and his staff are making sure they take their time, saying they want to be sure Wise is healthy for a long time.
“This isn’t just ‘get Madi Wise back on the court,’” Fennelly said. “This is ‘make sure Madi Wise is taken care of for the rest of her life.”
Iowa State sent Wise to see a specialist in Pittsburgh to be checked out.
The current plan is for her to sit out for the team’s next two games – against Northern Iowa on December 22 and North Alabama on December 30.
“The goal is to have her back before the Big 12 [season],” Fennelly said. “There is no specific date. She has a plan and we’re encouraged by the plan.”
Fennelly said he and his staff will re-visit the subject on January 1 of the new year.
Her return can’t come soon enough, however, after what happened – or almost happened – on Sunday.
“[Joens] continues to do some really special things,” Fennelly said. “Hopefully we can find her some help.”