Women's Basketball

STANZ: There’s never been a night like this one…

AMES — Women’s basketball in the state of Iowa has never been better.

Anybody can try to fact-check me on that one, but I will not believe them because I was in Hilton Coliseum on Dec. 8, 2021. I was in the building to witness one of the most incredible women’s basketball games this state will ever see.

No. 15 Iowa State 77, No. 12 Iowa 70.

I was there along with 11,347 others to watch two great teams go head-to-head for 40 hotly-contested minutes. We were there to witness two of the best players our state has ever produced — Iowa State’s Ashley Joens and Iowa’s Caitlin Clark — go shot-for-shot.

All 11,348 people got their money’s worth, and they celebrated it accordingly, putting one of the best atmospheres you’ll ever see for a college basketball game — men’s or women’s — on display on national television.

It is hard to believe it could have ever been better than this game was, so I’ll repeat it — women’s basketball in the state of Iowa has never been better.

“I don’t think it’s ever been better because both teams are really, really good, I think. It’s gotten a lot of attention. You have the Ashley Joens and Caitlin Clark story,” Iowa State head coach Bill Fennelly said after the game. “I think it’s big because this is the first time I can remember in a long time where you had two really good teams, a phenomenal crowd, coming out of the COVID stuff and people are writing national stories about it because of Caitlin and Ashley. I think you throw all that together; it probably adds another layer to it, certainly. It’s fun that our state and it’s fun that Iowa State’s getting that kind of national attention. It’s a great thing.”

Great is the perfect adjective for nearly every aspect of this game.

Two great coaches with Fennelly and Iowa’s Lisa Bluder leading two of their best teams.

Two all-time great players in Clark and Joens scored 26 points apiece against great defense from their opponents. Joens needed 28 shots to get her 26 points. Clark needed 26 to score 26.

Those two homegrown stars — from Iowa City and Des Moines — had to work for every look they got at the rim. Open ones were few and far between for both of them for the entirety of the game.

The hard work required by Joens was a testament to Iowa’s defensive effort as a team across a myriad of looks from man to man and zone. The hard work by Clark was a testament to the defensive ability of Iowa State’s Lexi Donarski.

Donarski’s defense gets the adjective, too. It was genuinely great, while her offense was pretty dang good with 16 points to finish second on the team.

“I thought Lex did an amazing job,” Fennelly said. “That kid (Clark), she’s going to shoot it. That’s not rocket science. The big thing, she scored 26 points on 26 shots. That’s what I told Lex before the game. If her shots equal her points, that’s exactly what we wanted. We kept the ball in front of her. She only had three assists, so that was a big piece of it, not fouling. Lex is a phenomenal defender. Caitlin is a phenomenal basketball player, but she had to work hard to get her shots. Some of the shots she hit, you just got to (go), ‘Damn, that’s pretty good.’ Overall, I can’t say she didn’t do a great job.”

Iowa State got another pair of outstanding defensive efforts from Morgan Kane and Beatriz Jordao. Iowa’s Monika Czinano is one of college basketball’s best low-post players. She’s genuinely great in her own right.

But, on this night in Ames, Kane and Jordao made Czinano work for position, possession and buckets. The result was a 5-of-13 shooting performance for 13 points from a player that entered the game hitting nearly 70 percent of her shots from the field.

“It’s a huge deal,” Fennelly said. “I thought Beatriz and Morgan did a great job of, ‘Don’t let her best position before she catches the ball. Don’t foul. Make her shoot tough shots over you,’ and we wanted to make her guard at the other end. Sometimes, that’s a way to kind of take their legs out a little bit, too. But I thought B and Mo were phenomenal. Shit, that kid is a phenomenal low post player, but I thought our effort tonight was outstanding.”

While the action on the floor was everything it was hyped and expected to be going into the game, the true star of the night was the atmosphere inside Hilton Coliseum.

It’s been a long time since the basketball cathedral at the corner of Lincoln Way and University Ave. got as loud as it did this night. She’s seen a lot of memorable nights in her 50 years at the Iowa State Center.

This one will forever rank as one of the all-time best in the minds of people who were there to witness it.

“This is just great for women’s basketball, especially in the state of Iowa, to have a crowd like that, to have a student section like that, and I love to see that,” Clark said. “Good for them. I’m glad these fans came out watched two really quality teams. I think that’s just great for women’s basketball and, like I said, the state of Iowa.”

Iowa State won the game, but women’s basketball as a sport and the state of Iowa won the night.

It is hard to imagine there will ever be another one better.

There sure as hell has never been one better than this before.

Jared Stansbury


Jared a native of Clarinda, Iowa, started as the Cyclone Fanatic intern in August 2013, primarily working as a videographer until starting on the women’s basketball beat prior to the 2014-15 season. Upon earning his Bachelor’s degree in Journalism and Mass Communication from Iowa State in May 2016, Jared was hired as the site’s full-time staff writer, taking over as the primary day-to-day reporter on football and men’s basketball. He was elevated to the position of managing editor in January 2020. He is a regular contributor on 1460 KXNO in Des Moines and makes regular guest appearances on radio stations across the Midwest. Jared resides in Ankeny with his four-year-old puggle, Lolo.