AMES — Iowa State has had a handful of games in which it gave up a fourth-quarter lead or failed to capitalize in the closing minutes.
All have led to painful losses.
But Wednesday night against Kansas State, the Cyclones made big shots down the stretch to pull out a victory.. It’s becoming a welcome trend, as ISU battled back Sunday to win at Oklahoma State, as well.
Kansas State kept the Hilton Coliseum crowd tense. With 5:14 left, the Wildcats trailed the Cyclones by just three points, but Coach Bill Fennelly’s team (11-6, 3-3 Big 12) once again made the clutch plays necessary to secure a 73-59 win.
“I thought in the last five minutes, we went a little bigger, and moved (Ashley Joens) to the (3 spot),” Fennelly said. “I think it was (a) 20-8 (run). The experience showed. We made some really smart basketball plays down the stretch and we were fortunate enough to win one.”
The 20-8 run that came in the last six and a half minutes was partially led by Rae Johnson — who scored a career-high 19 points in the victory.
Johnson was a perfect 6-6 from the free throw line during that stretch, as well.
“She did a great job just being able to find the ball and knock down some big shots,” Joens said of her teammate. “Her free throws were huge.”
Joens finished with 21 points and 11 rebounds — her 10th double-double of the season.
Her steady, yet starring performances have become business as usual for a team that’s been riddled with inconsistencies this season. Even if the starting lineup is changing every game, it’s not surprising to see Joens light up a score sheet with a 20-point, 10-rebound mark.
“It’s impressive,” Fennelly said. “You think about the way she has to do it. You’re asking her to do a lot of different things. She’s old school. She doesn’t pout. She doesn’t feel sorry for herself. I think she sets a great example.”
Joens is just playing the game she’s always played.
She doesn’t focus on who the opponent is or who is guarding her. It’s just another basketball game.
“Every time I go out there I think, ‘It’s just another game,’” Joens said. “I’ve played so many, so I just go out and play as hard as I can. I just prepare, practice, listen to the coaches, and go out and play.”
Fennelly counts on Joens to put up those numbers regularly, even with the constant changing around her.
Jade Thurmon played perhaps her best career game on Sunday against Oklahoma State to boost the Cyclones down the stretch. Joens had 17 and 10 in that win.
Tonight, it was Johnson who came to the aid of the sophomore superstar.
“It was (Thurmon) on Sunday and it was (Johnson) today,” Fennelly said. “That’s our team. Obviously, (Scott) and (Joens) are the focus of our team on everyone’s scouting report. You’ve just got to find ways to do it in this league. I’ve said that over and over.”
While Joens contributes to the stat sheet, Scott and Adriana Camber make waves in their own ways.
Whether Scott hits a big and-1 or Camber nails a 3-pointer to get the crowd on their feet, they set the tone.
It’s earned both of them 25 or more minutes per game and rightfully so.
“We have kids in and out of the lineup,” Fennelly said. “We’re not one of those teams that has a set rotation. The consistency of our team is (Camber, Joens, and Scott). You just kind of game-plan around (the rest).”
Whether that was something that the staff knew was coming at the start of the season or not, it’s what Iowa State has become.
Fennelly made it clear that he won’t be veering from that direction, either.
“We are going to embrace what we are, who we are, and what we believe, and not apologize for what we’re not,” Fennelly said. “We’re not a team that is going to run out (the same) five kids and a couple of subs of every game. That’s not us and it’s not going to be us.”
That mans thhere might be yet another starting five for the Cyclones when they take on Kansas on Saturday at Hilton Coliseum (2:00 p.m. Cyclones.tv).
It would be the fourth game in a row where it has changed from the previous 40 minutes, and that’s okay for Fennelly.
Iowa State is finding ways to win, and that’s just what they needed this season.
|Big 12 WBB Standings|
Upcoming Big 12 Games
Saturday, January 25
1:00 p.m. | Texas @ Oklahoma State
2:00 p.m. | Kansas @ Iowa State (3-3)
2:00 p.m. | Oklahoma @ Kansas State
2:00 p.m. | Texas Tech @ No. 2 Baylor (5-0)
Sunday, January 26
7:30 p.m. | No. 25 West Virginia (3-3) @ TCU
Tuesday, January 28
7:00 p.m. | Texas @ Oklahoma
7:30 p.m. | Iowa State (3-3) @ No. 2 Baylor (5-0)
Wednesday, January 29
7:00 p.m. | TCU @ Oklahoma State
8:00 p.m. | Kansas State @ Kansas