AMES, Iowa – For as much of a roller coaster ride this season has felt like for Iowa State, there was a different feel to this team through its first 18 games of the season.
It didn’t feel like the moxie that fans saw during the team’s run to the Sweet 16 was the same. On Saturday, in game 19, it felt like that returned and it played an overarching role in the 82-74 win over No. 14 Oklahoma.
“I don’t think we’ve lost a lot of confidence in our ability to compete,” Iowa State coach Bill Fennelly said. “I think it was more about Steph – and what she’s done and how she’s done it – but the competitiveness today was really great to see. And, (it was) against one of the better teams not just in our league, but in the country.”
Iowa State came into the game with a 1-3 record against top 25 teams this season, but it leaves Hilton Coliseum with a Big 12 best 7-2 record in conference play off the heels of its biggest win of the season.
The Cyclones may have their swagger back.
“For sure,” Iowa State forward Ashley Joens said. “Hilton brought a lot of energy and it was a lot of fun. With the weather, we didn’t know if we’d have as big of a crowd as we normally do. (This win) kind of gives us some more confidence as we move on through this season.”
Joens was at the heart of that, scoring 18 of her 32 points in the second quarter and going 8-9 at the free throw line after missing her first two.
It was vintage Ashley Joens.
“It’s certainly on the list (of Ashley Joens performances),” Fennelly said. “Because of the amount of minutes she played, the way she had to defend and the way she scored… Our goal was to fully attack and play off the doubles of (Joens).”
Part of the attack came from Oklahoma’s reputation as a foul-heavy team.
The Sooners rank at the top of the Big 12 in fouls given per game. Iowa State drew 29 to Oklahoma’s 15.
Morgan Kane played one of her best games in a Cyclone uniform in a physical, 11-point performance where she also found nine rebounds and two assists.
“She played 22 minutes today,” Fennelly said of Kane. “She’ll sleep well tonight.”
Fennelly said the same of Denae Fritz, who was called on to play over 38 minutes.
Fritz matched her career high with 14 points and added six boards.
Iowa State looked all the part of a first-place team, and that’s all that mattered Saturday.
There’s still nine Big 12 games left to play, along with the tournament in Kansas City.
Saturday wasn’t the biggest game Iowa State will play this season, but by the end of the year, it might mean the most.
Iowa State will return to the court on Wednesday, February 1 in a trip to Manhattan to face Kansas State (6:30 p.m. ESPN+).
Big 12 WBB Standings
1. Iowa State 7-2
2. Texas 6-2
3. Oklahoma 6-3
4. West Virginia 5-3
4. Baylor 5-3
6. Oklahoma State 4-4
7. Kansas 3-4
8. Texas Tech 3-5
9. Kansas State 2-6
10. TCU 0-9
Saturday, Jan. 28
Iowa State 86, Oklahoma 78
West Virginia 62, TCU 55
Baylor 79, Texas Tech 59
7 p.m. | Oklahoma State @ Texas
Sunday, Jan. 29
5 p.m. | Kansas State @ Kansas