Women's Basketball

WBB: No. 7 Iowa State staves off late UNI rally, improves to 3-0

CEDAR FALLS, IA – In recent seasons, Iowa State’s matchups with in-state rival UNI have come down to the waning moments and Tuesday was no different. A 15-0 Panther run gave UNI a fourth-quarter lead after it had trailed by 14 points.

However, the No. 7 Cyclones had to prove their worth, staving off the late rally in an 88-85 win over the Panthers.

“I think it’s good that you’re battle tested and you find a way to win,” Iowa State coach Bill Fennelly said. “To have a good lead, go behind and to come back is a tribute to (this team). We’re going to have a lot of games like that. Our schedules really hard… Hopefully, we’ll learn from that.”

During the run, Fennelly told his staff adamantly that he wasn’t going to take a timeout, no matter what.

Fennelly knew the media timeout was coming, and ultimately wanted to see his team learn what to do in case it found itself in a similar situation later in the season.

“I told the staff and I told the team – when UNI was coming back, I was not going to call a timeout,” Fennelly said. “I should’ve, my dad is probably screaming at me – sorry Dad – but I wanted to see how we learned and how we did some things to get through it.”

Iowa State found itself in a 83-85 hole with 2:14 to play in the game, but out of the timeout, Emily Ryan made her presence felt.

The Cyclone point guard buried a three on the first possession out of it, before a floater on the ensuing possession earned herself a 5-0 run.

It ended up being the stretch that gave Iowa State the win. The Panthers didn’t scored after that timeout.

“Honestly, I was just trying get the team in position to win the game,” Ryan said. “Whatever the defense was giving us, we were taking. It just so happened, I was open at the end.”

Each of Iowa State’s five starters ended up with double figures on the night, with Ashley Joens leading the charge with 26 points.

That was more than Joens scored in her last pair of matchups with UNI, where she mustered just 18 points combined in the two games.

Stephanie Soares tallied 23 points for the Cyclones in a season-high 26 minutes on the floor.

Albeit those are positives, but Fennelly says Soares still has some things to work on in her transition to NCAA Division I basketball.

“I thought (Soares) was really good,” Fennelly said. “I think the things she’s learning is (the conditioning) and the physicality of the game is still something she has to learn. Nothing against NAIA basketball, but it’s completely a different world than what she’s seeing. She didn’t see any Grace Boffeli’s at The Masters University.”

Soares will go through those tribulations – it’s expected coming from a NAIA program. In game three of the season, Wednesday’s line wasn’t anything fans should be disappointed about.

It’s where she and the Cyclones go from here that will write the story of the 2022-23 Cyclones.

And they’ve just got one more tune-up before another pair of big tests away from home.

No. 7 Iowa State returns to action Sunday as it takes on Columbia at Hilton Coliseum (11:00 a.m. ESPN+) ahead of its trip to the Phil Knight Invitational in Portland, Oregon.