Women's Basketball

Iowa’s “old guys” outlast Iowa State’s “young guys” in back-and-forth Cy-Hawk women’s battle

Iowa State’s Audi Crooks attempts a basket against Iowa center Sharon Goodman during a basketball game at Hilton Coliseum on Wednesday, Dec. 6, 2023, in Ames. © Lily Smith/The Register / USA TODAY NETWORK

 AMES — Iowa State’s Hannah Belanger raced to the baseline, set herself, and hoisted up the shot. Swish. The Truman State graduate transfer’s clutch basket gave Iowa State a 55-54 lead over No. 4 Iowa with 4:30 remaining in Wednesday’s gritty and entertaining Cy-Hawk game at Hilton Coliseum and the crowd screamed its approval.  

What a moment. What a potentially huge upset in the making. But everything unraveled for the young Cyclones after that as the Hawkeyes beat them for the seventh time in the past eight meetings, 67-58, before a sellout crowd of 14,267. 

“Of course we wanted to win here tonight,” said ISU freshman center Audi Crooks, who recorded a double-double (15 points, 10 rebounds) in her Cy-Hawk game debut. “But I think even thought the score says otherwise, we really did win, collectively. We learned a lot about ourselves, about our confidence, (and) about how good we can be when we click. We had 35 minutes of an amazing basketball game. We’ve just gotta get the other five.” 

Neither the Hawkeyes (9-1) nor the Cyclones (4-4) led by more than three points from the 4:40 mark of the first quarter to the 6:10 mark of the third. Belanger’s jumper that gave ISU its 55-54 lead midway through the fourth quarter capped an 8-0 run, but Iowa closed with a 13-4 splurge fueled by six points from senior guard Kate Martin.  

Hawkeye star Caitlin Clark scored a game-high 35 points and became the 15th Division I women’s basketball player to eclipse 3,000 points in her career. 

“That’s a lot of points,” Cyclone head coach Bill Fennelly said. “And everybody was grilling me (before the game) about (Clark), and how are you gonna stop her? I’m like, number one, you can’t.” 

ISU did, however, forcer her to attempt 31 field goal to get those 35 points. The Cyclones limited Iowa to 22.2 percent shooting in the second quarter and 26.7 percent in the third, but the Hawkeyes finished with a flourish, knocking down 54.5 percent of their fourth-quarter shots. 

“I told our team I could not be more proud of how hard they played, the way they played, the way they did things that we asked them to do coming into this game,” Fennelly said. “And I kind of hinted to them that they better get us now. That game was a bunch of old guys (who) beat a bunch of young guys. That’s what it came down to and you’ve gotta give them credit for that.” 

Addy Brown also recorded a double-double for the Cyclones, scoring 14 points while grabbing 12 rebounds. The freshman forward doled out a team-best five assists and snared two of ISU’s four steals. 

“We wanted to win really bad,” Brown said. “So attention to detail is important. We did a great job of that for about 35 minutes and the last five kind of got away from us, so we’ve just got to go back and fix that and move on.” 

That ability to seal a potential win rather than let one slip away late largely hinges on experience. And as Fennelly joked to the media earlier this week, “Last year, that (Iowa) group — a lot of them — are playing in the national championship game and our kids are getting ready to go to senior prom.” He resurrected that remark Wednesday night to prove a larger point: It’s hard for “young guys” to beat “old guys” when the pressure spikes and time on the clock rapidly dwindles. Fennelly called Martin “the difference in the game” and she’s a sixth-year senior who made her 110th career start. 

“You can practice a lot of stuff, but like we all do, you’ve gotta live it,” Fennelly said. “You can’t skip the line and say, ‘Oh, now I get to play like Kate Martin. I mean, (most of) our kids were in seventh and eighth grade when Kate Martin started playing at Iowa. So you can’t make that up. That gap is there. You’ve got to play through it.”