On Wednesday night against TCU, the Iowa State women’s basketball team scored 91 points on 44 percent shooting.
Last Saturday at South Dakota State, it was 69 points and 32 percent.
The difference was night and day in terms of scoring, field goal percentage, and the overall look of the No. 23 Iowa State women’s basketball team in its last two games.
Maybe all it took was shooting, but the Cyclones had their way with TCU, forcing the Lady Frogs into submission with a 91-68 win the first Big 12 game of the season.
“I love this team,” Iowa State coach Bill Fennelly said after his first game out of quarantine. “I love what they’re about. I told them before the game. I’ve coached over 1,000 games and I don’t know if I’ve looked forward to one more. I challenged them hard on Monday via Zoom, about what they were doing and not doing. We have some talented players and we have the best player in the league in Ashley Joens. We’re going to celebrate this one for sure.”
That’s high praise from Fennelly for the junior who finished the game with a team-high 33 points and 11 rebounds to help the Cyclones get off to a 1-0 start in Big 12 play. She was a perfect 10-10 from the free throw line and played maybe one of her most complete games in a Cyclone uniform to date.
Although it was her second straight game scoring 30 points or more, Joens turned it up a knotch on Wednesday. Her teammates followed suit.
“Yeah it feels good,” Joens said. “My teammates, especially in this game really stepped up to knock down shots. It opened up a lot more things for me inside and with the defense they ran, I got a lot of shots outside as well. Just all around, the team played well, the coaches and assistant coaches – everyone. It was a total team effort.”
The women got off to a hot start, scoring 10 points behind 3-pointers from Emily Ryan and Joens before TCU could even muster up a point.
It went downhill from there for TCU, too.
The Cyclones got out to a 28-10 lead by the end of the first quarter and extended it to 22 points by the end of the first half.
Ryan added six rebounds, six assists, and pair of blocks early on. Aubrey Joens each of her first three long balls to help the Cyclones there. Morgan Kane even went perfect from the field and ended the night tally eight points.
“I think when you do make shots, the energy seems to picks up a lot,” Joens said. “Just having that energy gave us a boost, but once you start knocking down some shots, you kind of get that confidence.”
The only sort of adversity Iowa State faced was at the start of the third quarter.
In the first five minutes of the third quarter, the Cyclones had only put four points on the board. The 22-point lead was trimmed to 16.
“I thought our kids took a little punch to the nose,” Fennelly said. “I thought we missed some shots early. We had a couple of silly fouls, but to our kids’ credit. I said at the under-5 timeout, ‘We’re up 16 still, on the road in the third quarter, finish the quarter.’ The kids did it and gave us a working margin going into the last 10.”
That they did, and we haven’t even mentioned the brilliance of Kristin Scott. Tasked with guarding a hot hand in TCU’s Yummy Morris, the senior clamped down and only allowed two points the entire game. They came on free throws.
“I thought (Scott) was great,” Fennelly said. “She only had one turnover against a lot of double teams, the shot selection was great and she was playing with a sense of (calmness).”
Scott ended the night with 15 points from the floor along with five rebounds. At times, it looked like she could do anything she wanted in the purple-and-black paint in Fort Worth.
“She hadn’t had a great start to the senior year,” Fennelly said. “We talked a lot about it. We challenged her a little bit, but we know how good she is. She showed it tonight. If this team is going to go wherever we do go, it’s going to be (Joens) and (Scott) that do it, but I was really proud of (Scott) tonight.”
It took a total team effort and the whole team showed up.
To everyone’s surprise, Coach Fennelly did too.
The 26-year head coach returned to the floor after being in quarantine for 10 days because he came in contact with an individual who had COVID-19.
Fennelly was originally supposed to be held in quarantine for 14 days, but due to the CDC (Center for Disease Control) adjusting its rules for quarantining, he was allowed to be on the bench for Wednesday’s game.
“It was very last minute,” Fennelly said. “I don’t know if I’ve been this nervous for a game in a long time. It being my season opener, I was really nervous, but my staff did an amazing job. Our kids were organized and ready to play. I could not have been more proud of the way we played.”
That’s not to say Fennelly was the reason the team blasted off. He gave all the credit to his assistant coaches following the beat down. He said after the game that he was just fan with a good seat in the house, making sure to thank Jodi Steyer for stepping up to do the extra work in the Cyclones opening games.
“I think our kids are bright,” Fennelly said. “We talked about bouncing back and starting a really tough stretch in December on a positive note.”
The stretch started on Wednesday night and will only get harder for Iowa State. They’re taking on No. 1 South Carolina on Sunday at Hilton Coliseum, still with plenty to work on and more to prove.
But following a road loss to South Dakota State, was Wednesday night all of what Fennelly could ask for going into a game against the best team out there?
“Oh, that and more,” Fennelly said.
The Cyclones are 2-1 going into the game (11:00 a.m. on ESPNU) and Wednesday night was a step in the right direction, to say the least.
“Obviously, you’re disappointed with what happened last Saturday, but we’ve talked about it,” Fennelly said. “We’re lucky to be playing basketball. It’s been a crappy year for a lot of people. We just took the approach of, ‘Lets roll into December. We have a monster schedule. Let’s go.'”