AMES — Iowa State took care of business in an 88-68 exhibition game victory over Truman State on Wednesday night, but the finally score isn’t that important.
Doing so with five true freshmen playing regular minutes while not having its two most experienced players in the game at all is what will be looked at.
“It’s hard to believe that the first seven kids that played weren’t in Ames last year,” Bill Fennelly said afterwards. “When you look at the stats, I think 70 percent plus of our minutes, points and rebounds came from the freshmen. There was certainly a lot of good things and certainly a lot of things to work on, but that’s what these games are designed to do.”
There was a lot to take away from the action on the court, but the biggest story in the arena was in the absence of starting point guard, Emily Ryan.
Iowa State released a statement prior to the game saying that the senior captain will be, “out indefinitely as she continues to recover from a health-related issue.”
That isn’t standard practice for a typical injury, at least at Iowa State. Fennelly said after the game that even he doesn’t have a timeline for Ryan’s return.
“With Emily, I don’t know what her situation is,” Fennelly said. “We’ll let the medical staff deal with it. She’s making progress, but that’s probably all I can talk about with that.”
Beyond a lot of unknowns, that’s all there is to examine in Ryan’s case – Iowa State simply doesn’t know when they will see No. 11 back out on the floor.
As for Nyamer Diew, who also did not play, Iowa State held her out due to a lingering knee issue that has forced her to miss some games in each of the last two seasons.
“If it was the (season) opener tonight, she would have played,” Fennelly said.
It’s tough to take a large amount of stock in these types of exhibition games – the opponent typically lacks some size to its roster and Truman State was no exception. However, Iowa State saw a plethora of individual performances that do deliver encouragement.
“I thought we played really, really hard,” Fennelly said. “It’s like I told Doc at halftime, ‘It’s like we’re teaching a foreign language.’ These guys are just so used to showing up, getting off the bus and then they start shooting. When you’re playing a lot of (freshmen), and there isn’t the help that’s usually there, but I liked what the possibilities are.”
Addy Brown made the most noise of any player, scoring 16 points and corralling eight rebounds that impressed Fennelly. He stresses that he’s not trying to compare Brown to Iowa State’s past stars, but did offer some words.
“She’s our most versatile player,” Fennelly said. “I think the last two days, she’s probably practiced better than she has since we started. She’s willing to do the things we asked her to do… we’ve been lucky to always have a kid like that (recently).”
“I don’t even want to bring it up, but it’s the Bridget Carleton-Ashley Joens kind of skillset,” Fennelly said. “No, I did not say that she’s the next – I’m not saying that, but she has a similar skillset… Besides Emily Ryan, she’s probably the smartest basketball player on our team.”
Freshman Kelsey Joens led the team in scoring, tallying 20 points on a 5-7 shooting mark from the 3-point line. The rest of Iowa State’s players combined for a 5-23 mark in the category, but it was the first time any of the shooters had played in a live game at Hilton Coliseum.
Joens, who attended games with her family to watch her older sisters, Ashley and Aubrey, play in Ames got to see the game from a different lens.
“You know, I saw the different perspective now,” Joens said. “I’ve watched it from the stands for however many years now, and now I finally got to put on the jersey. Now, I finally got to put on the jersey and so that was a dream come true – just being out there with my best friends, basically.”
A fellow in-state freshman in Audi Crooks impressed as well, finishing with a 14-point, 11-rebound double-double in 18 minutes on the court.
“It’s hard to assess when you don’t know what to assess it off of,” Crooks said. “You know, this is our first game and I didn’t know I had a double-double until you just told me. So, that’s cool, I guess. Hopefully, I can keep that going, but I think it’s a good start. It’s a good foundation. Even though you could say that we played well, collectively, we made some mistakes. We have work to do and we’ll work on that tomorrow for sure.”
One of Crooks’ best plays was found on her lone assist of the game, which happened on a kickout to former Des Moines Roosevelt star Arianna Jackson.
Jackson splashed home a 3-pointer and finished the game with eight points.
Iowa State saw a bit of both Jackson and Joens at the point guard spot during the game, but Jackson controlled things for a majority of it.
She enters a unique role in trying to be an immediate replacement to Ryan, who holds Iowa State’s single-game assist record. In high school, Roosevelt needed her to score, but that adjustment takes time and college experience to make.
Jalynn Bristow quitely added a double-double, fighting her way to 12 rebounds and 10 points in the game.
As for the post spot, Isnelle Natabou saw a majority of the court time, bringing home 16 points and eight rebounds. She split reps with Crooks, but was on the floor for larger, consistent parts of the game, being that she’s one of the few on the roster with previous collegiate experience.
It’s too early to tell what this team can turn into or even what it is right now, but Iowa State did just what it needed to Wednesday to leave Hilton feeling good.
“I really didn’t know (where we were at),” Fennelly said. “We had about four days where we really struggled practice-wise. You could tell, we needed to get to November and play somebody else.”