The first 10 minutes of Thursday night’s game at the Knapp Center looked like a classic slugfest rivalry game.
The next 30 minutes gave Iowa State its third straight win to start the year, defeating the Bulldogs 98-76 on the road.
“First off, I think Drake is a very good team,” Iowa State coach Bill Fennelly said. “I really do. We knew that coming in. I think the biggest thing for me – you know, you’re down 11 and things don’t look very good. Are you going to hang around and see what happens?”
Iowa State hung around – and then some.
The No. 14 ranked Cyclones blistered to a 30-point second quarter behind three triples coming from the Joens sisters.
It closed the Drake lead to 33-29 and from then on, it was clear that the Cyclones were coming.
“Obviously we (had) another slow start,” Fennelly said. “I’ve got to fix that. We played as hard as we could play against a really good team. We’ve had a lot of good teams come here and lose. These games are hard. I honestly believe that in-state games are the hardest games on the schedule. No one outside of this room, this building, or this state understands that, but we do.”
Ashley Joens finished the game with 31 points, a season-high, and was aided by an 18-point performance by her sister, Aubrey Joens.
Together, they combined to score half of the team’s 98 points on the evening.
Fennelly had never dreamt of a night like that.
“No, not really, I mean 49 points is good for them,” Fennelly said. “I knew they were both good players, but that’s a cool game for them, especially in an in-state game. It looked like a City High game there for a second.”
But the effort came from all around the top of the arc.
Iowa State once again utilized its small-ball lineup for a quarter of the game, comprised of the Joens sisters, Emily Ryan, Lexi Donarski, and freshman newcomer Denae Fritz.
Each of those five ended the night scoring in double figures, but Fennelly was most impressed with Fritz.
“She’s one of the toughest kids I’ve been around,” Fennelly said. “She doesn’t show it. She doesn’t talk a lot, but she loves to compete. When she’s in that mode that she was in tonight, she changes our team. I think she’s going to be one of the best freshmen in the country.”
That’s some high praise for a player in her third game of the season, but if anyone would know it, a coach in his 27th season at the helm ought to.
Fennelly went on to praise Fritz’s toughness as well after she was removed from the starting lineup after the first two games.
“I told her two days ago that (she wasn’t) going to start and we were going to try something new,” Fennelly said. “Most kids pout. She came out and played. If I’m walking down an alley down here, I’m bringing Denae (Fritz) with me.”
The win moves Iowa State to 3-0 on the season with the caveat of a 2-0 record when trailing after the first quarter, something that shows both positives and negatives for the Cyclones while chasing wins.
But the opportunities with the schedule this team has will be aplenty, and they’ve got a few coming up.
Iowa State will get another tune-up game on Sunday when it plays its final time before the Florida tournament at the end of next week. The SWAC’s Southern University will travel to Ames for a Noon CT matchup with the Cyclones.
It will be hard to match the passion that was in the building on Thursday in Des Moines, but there’s a lot to be excited about in that team from Ames.