Women's Basketball

WBB: Iowa State’s season ends in defeat to Toledo

Iowa State players look down the court as Ashley Joens shoots a free throw during an 80-73 loss to Toledo. Photo Courtesy Iowa State Athletics Communications // Luke Lu

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. – Iowa State didn’t score for a five-minute, 22-second stretch in the second quarter of its NCAA Tournament first round.

It found itself down by 16 points in the third quarter and later saw the ’22-’23 season come to an end when the clock hit zero in an 80-73 defeat to No. 12 seed Toledo.

“I certainly applaud the effort of our team, I just- when you get into the NCAA Tournament, I’ve always said it is a make-shot, miss-shot game,” Iowa State coach Bill Fennelly said. “They made a lot of shots and we missed a lot of shots.”

That five-minute stretch was one of the biggest impacts that contributed to the loss. It didn’t help that Iowa State couldn’t get a stop when it needed one.

Without it, Iowa State couldn’t get into its transition offense that it had found success in throughout the game.

“They guarded us really well and we missed some shots. We only turned the ball over eight times in the pace of the game. The one play – it happens – we have a post player underneath the basket that misses three shots in a row. That happens. We missed a couple of layups, we missed an open three and a few free throws. It’s a combination of things.

“When the other team’s making shots, you can’t get into transition and when they’re making shots, we can’t get in transition,” Fennelly said. “That’s, for five minutes, I think that was the thing. They could get it up and down and we didn’t. They made the plays.”

As a team, the Cyclones shot 6-31 from the 3-point line.

That number, being low at 19.4 percent, is something that was usually rare for an Iowa State team. Although it happened more frequently this season.

“The 3-pointers are shots that we- that’s a big part of our offense,” Fennelly said. “We couldn’t make them tonight. When you’re not making them, and defensive transition becomes a problem, it just kind of spirals from there… I would say most of them were pretty open or wide open. That’s a shot you have to take to open up the defense.”

Ashley Joens, despite being double-teamed on the block and at times fully encompassed in a pair of Toledo players’ arms, finished with a team-high 23 points along with 13 rebounds.

“They doubled in a lot, so trying to find my teammates on the perimeter (was tough),” Joens said. “They did a great job defensively, doubling down on that.”

Joens finishes her career as one of the most decorated players in Iowa State history.

“Yeah, it’s bittersweet, but I’ve been blessed to play here,” Joens said before the tears started to take over in the postgame press conference.

Fennelly told Joens ‘it’s OK.’ Morgan Kane took the mic.

She wanted to do what she could to help her teammate when she needed it.

“Ashley just had a huge impact, not only on the court through her leadership, but also off of the court, she’s really brought us together as a team,” Kane said. “When things get hard and challenging, she’s the first one to bring us together. I’m really grateful for that.”

For her entire career in Ames, that was the kind of player that Kane was – one that would do anything for the greater good of the team.

It’s no surprise that even once the game had ended, that same player showed up.

“I do, you think about what this team’s gone through… our two best post players are in street clothes,” Fennelly said. “They had to deal with what I had to go through with my family, losing my mother. It was a group that showed up every day with no complaints. The great thing about this tournament is that you get to be a part of the greatest sporting event there is and the worst part is, it always ends this way, except for one team.”

For the Cyclones, who finish the season 22-10, they’ll be remembered as a group like all the others.

But, they’re only one of three in program history that won a Big 12 championship.

“A week ago, we win the Big 12 and today we lose in the tournament,” Fennelly said. “The narrative is always different, but success to me is what I saw every day from people that represented our university in a great way.”