AMES — Bill Fennelly knew it had to be bad.
His star player, Ashley Joens, sat on the baseline opposite of the Iowa State bench. He could see the looks on the faces of his players. He saw the tears in his Joens’ eyes as she walked passed her head coach and straight to the locker room while holding her shoulder.
It was bad.
“When you see tears in Ashley Joens’ eyes, it’s got to hurt because that kid is as tough as they come,” Fennelly said. “The look on our players’ faces was not a good look. They saw it, which that’s usually where you know it’s bad. You could see it. They brought her back and they said it had popped out.”
Joens, the Big 12’s leading scorer, had tried to catch herself while falling to the floor during Iowa State’s 63-59 win over Oklahoma on Saturday at Hilton Coliseum. Her shoulder was dislocated.
There was no way the Cyclones’ leader in almost every statistical category would return to the game, right?
“They popped it back in,” Fennelly said. “And she said she wanted to play.”
So, she did play, returning with 5:42 left in the third quarter and Iowa State holding a 12-point lead. That lead would shrink to five as the third period came to a close.
All the while, Fennelly was keeping a close eye on Joens, who finished the game with 17 points and 15 rebounds.
“During one of the timeouts, I spent the whole timeout saying, ‘Don’t you lie to me. I want to know how you feel. I want to win this game, but there’s something that’s a lot more important.’ She said, ‘Coach, I’m fine. I’m fine. I’m fine,'” Fennelly said. “She had that look like she wasn’t comfortable, obviously. I don’t know how you could be comfortable. Literally the whole timeout I just kept looking at her and talking to her. Everybody was talking. I just kept saying, ‘I need the truth. When that horn goes off, you better tell me the truth.’ The horn went off and she just stood up like, ‘Do we have to keep doing this?’ She’s a tough, tough kid.”
Less than two minutes into the fourth quarter, Oklahoma would complete a 9-0 run and take a one-point lead. An Iowa State lead that was once as high as 15 points had been erased.
But, the Cyclones still had the best — and toughest — player on the floor. A bucket in the lane by Joens gave Iowa State the lead back. When Oklahoma answered with another mini-run to build a four-point lead with 4:28 left on the clock, it was Joens again who scored in the paint to put Iowa State back ahead less than a minute later.
Soon enough, she was stepping to the free-throw line with Iowa State holding a two-point lead and nine seconds on the clock. Less than an hour after dislocating her shoulder and feeling tears building in her eyes, Joens knocked down the pair of shots at the charity stripe and iced another win crucial to Iowa State’s NCAA Tournament hopes.
The injury was bad and Bill Fennelly knew it. Now we all know it was not bad enough to keep Ashley Joens down.
“She’s a tough, tough kid,” Fennelly said. “Certainly, that is a game that will be in her legacy down the road.”