Women's Basketball

Iowa State’s Big Three saved the Cyclones from madness

Iowa State Cyclones guard Emily Ryan (11) shoots as Texas-Arlington Mavericks guard Camryn Hawkins (23) attempts to block during the second quarter in the NCAA first-round game at Hilton Coliseum Thursday, March 17, 2022, in Ames, Iowa.

AMES — Iowa State trailed UT Arlington by eight points at the end of the first quarter on Friday night. At one point, the Cyclones were down by 14.

When the buzzer showed zero’s at the end of the game, Bill Fennelly’s team had completed the comeback, a 78-71 win.

Emily Ryan, Ashley Joens and Lexi Donarski combined to score 70 of their team’s points.

“All the games that we’ve watched all day on the men’s or women’s side, every single team that lost is saying, ‘Oh, man, if we would have made a couple of shots here or there…’ It’s the beauty of it and the pain in it,” Bill Fennelly said after the game. “That’s why it’s madness. Luckily tonight, we made just enough plays. (UTA) did everything they could to win the game. Probably Emily Ryan, Ashley Joens and the best fan base in the country got us through it.”

Joens’ 36 points was the cog that kept turning for the Cyclone offense, and the 15 rebounds she added didn’t hurt either.

Donarski had a second half rebound turn into a breakaway lay-in that helped swing the momentum inside the building.

Ryan scored 11 points in the final six minutes of the game.

“I think she has a sense,” Fennelly said. “We had a lot of blank looks on our faces at times. (Ryan) just said, ‘OK, give me the ball and I’ll do something. The plays were there and she made them. That’s what this tournament is about.”

Iowa State, however, had one of its worst games of the season at the free throw line, only converting 15 of its 26 attempts.

If it wasn’t for an early layup by Morgan Kane, only four players would have scored for the team, period.

“It’s a great effort by (UTA), and it’s not good (for us),” Fennelly said. “We kind of reverted back to kind of standing around watching those guys play a little bit, and Ashley had 36, and it’s one of those nights. I mean, she could have had 50.”

“It’s just missing free throws and missing a few other shots, but obviously, if we’re going to have any chance Sunday, any chance, we better get something from the other people. They should be rested, so hopefully that’s the case, but we’ll try and throw something together. Georgia is really good. Really good.”

The standouts stepped up, just in the nick of time, and for the third-straight NCAA Tournament, Iowa State will play for a spot in the Sweet 16.

The problem comes with the zero points the Cyclones got from its bench.

“(We’d) better play a totally different game Sunday or it will be — yeah, it won’t be any fun,” Fennelly said. “It reminded me a lot of the second half of the West Virginia game in the Big 12 Tournament. I don’t know how many layups we missed.”

It was as uncharacteristic as Iowa State has looked all season, and when two games like that come in a three-game set, there could be a cause for concern.

As we saw in the second round game in Kansas City, though, this group can compete on the big stage, and it only gets bigger from here.

No. 3 Iowa State will face No. 6 Georgia on Sunday, tentatively scheduled for 6:00 p.m. on ESPN2.