AMES — Iowa State’s 80-72 victory over North Alabama on Monday night featured a little bit of everything.
In some cases, it probably wasn’t exactly what a coach wanted to see in the final game of the non-conference portion of the season. Although for Iowa State, it might be something that we see a lot this year.
The Cyclones got out to a big lead late in the third quarter, but had to fight off a late charge by a physical team to pull out a win in the December finale.
“I thought our kids competed,” Iowa State coach Bill Fennelly said. “The game was Big 12 physical, so I think we’re ready for that. I thought, that for the most part, we did the things that we really needed to do.”
The visiting Lions came into the game with a 9-2 record on the year that included a five-point loss to Iowa at Carver Hawkeye Arena in November.
Iowa State owned a 16-point lead at the end of the third quarter before North Alabama used a physical strategy to trim the deficit to four points with 2:58 to play.
It was almost a sneak peek to what the Cyclones will see when they begin their Big 12 Conference season on Friday at Texas Tech.
“It was pretty physical,” sophomore Ashley Joens said. “All games are. This game was a good step to prepare us for the Big 12 and I feel like that will help us down the road.”
Blowing a lead to start the fourth quarter, however, is something that has plagued the Cyclones in both wins and losses all season. Iowa State had late leads in both of its December losses to Iowa and UNI before ultimately losing close games to the in-state rivals.
“We’ve got to be much better, defensively, down the stretch and we’ve got to quit turning the ball over,” Fennelly said. “We are just not good enough to overcome that. It hurt us against Iowa and Northern Iowa. There’s no question there is some fatigue involved when you’re playing that many minutes, but they’re young. They’re fine.”
The minutes distribution this season, for Fennelly, has been one of the most challenging in recent years.
With the exception of Nia Washington’s one minute on the floor Monday, Iowa State played just six players for the entirety of the game.
Both Joens and Adriana Camber never came out.
“We’re playing a very few amount of kids a lot of minutes,” Fennelly said. “You could tell that we were running out of gas a little bit and that we lose our focus defensively. That’s where you lose it. They kept coming at us, we made a couple mistakes and they scored.”
The Cyclones won ugly, and they’re going to have to keep doing it that way with a six-player rotation like they showed on Monday night.
Nonetheless, when they absolutely had to, the Cyclones found a way to win.
“When the opportunities were there to score, I thought we made a couple of big plays and a couple of nice ones on inbounds plays,” Fennelly said. “There’s nothing that’s going to be aesthetic about this team and I think they understand that. But, finding a way, I guess, is a good thing.”
Iowa State will have to keep finding a way after another injury popped up on Monday. Redshirt freshman Maddie Frederick will be out for at least two weeks due to a stress fracture in her left ankle.
It’s the latest playing-time issue the Cyclones have faced in trying to fill those 200 minutes per contest. They lost Madison Wise – who was averaging 25 minutes per game – to migraine issues and it’s no certain thing on getting her back.
“It’s a huge concern,” Fennelly said. “There’s no question about it and we’ve got to figure out something. We know what’s coming.”
The original plan was for Wise to return on Friday for the Big 12 opener against Texas Tech, but Fennelly announced after the game that she won’t be available this week.
Wise will be re-evaluated on Tuesday or Wednesday and Iowa State will go from there, but for now there isn’t a replacement for the junior guard.
“Right now, we’re looking at six people for 200 minutes,” Fennelly said. “You can do the 32.5 minutes per person math, and that math doesn’t add up very well. It’d be great to have Wise back, but right now she’s not.”
The Cyclones will keep battling minutes and fatigue as they travel to Lubbock to face the Red Raiders on Friday at 7:00 p.m.
Although they have a lot of problems at the forefront, and whether they’re prepared or not, conference play is here, staring this Iowa State team in the face.
“We’ve got to control what we can and be smart moving forward,” Fennelly said.
|Big 12 WBB Standings|
Upcoming Big 12 WBB Schedule
Friday, Jan. 3
6:00 p.m. | TCU @ No. 25 Texas
7:00 p.m. | Iowa State @ Texas Tech
Saturday, Jan. 4
2:00 p.m. | Kansas @ Oklahoma State
4:00 p.m. | No. 6 Baylor @ Oklahoma
Sunday, Jan. 5
Noon | No. 19 West Virginia @ Kansas State
Monday, Jan. 6
8:00 p.m. Iowa State vs. No. 25 Texas
Wednesday, Jan. 8
6:30 p.m. | Texas Tech @ TCU
7:00 p.m. | No. 19 West Virginia @ Kansas
7:00 p.m. | Oklahoma @ Oklahoma State
Thursday, Jan. 9
6:00 p.m. (Non-Con) | No. 6 Baylor @ No. 1 UCONN
Saturday, Jan. 11
1:00 p.m. | Iowa State @ Oklahoma
3:00 p.m. | Kansas State @ Texas Tech
Sunday, Jan. 12
Noon | No. 25 Texas @ No. 19 West Virginia
1:00 p.m. | Oklahoma State @ No. 6 Baylor
2:00 p.m. | Kansas @ TCU