Women's Basketball

Kelsey Joens is all smiles after shining for Iowa State in 87-70 win over Northern Iowa

Iowa State Cyclones guard Kelsey Joens (23) takes a three-point shot over Northern Iowa Panthers guard Emerson Green (4) during the second quarter of a NCAA women’s basketball at Hilton Coliseum on Wednesday, Dec. 20, 2023, in Ames, Iowa. © Nirmalendu Majumdar/Ames Tribune / USA TODAY NETWORK

AMESEmily Ryan deftly delivered the lead pass. Kelsey Joens accelerated to catch up and receive it.

 The resulting connection between Iowa State’s most experienced player and one of the team’s many freshmen ended in a layup — and Joens grinned all the way down the floor.

 “She was like, ‘Thanks for grabbing it,’” said Joens, who scored a Hilton Coliseum career-high 16 points Wednesday to help the Cyclones beat Northern Iowa, 87-70, before a crowd of 9,346. “So she made me chuckle on the way down the court. You know, again, I was having a lot of fun, so I was showing it with a big smile.”

 Joens shot 6-for-8 from the field, 3-for-4 from the 3-point line, and added five rebounds and two steals. Fellow freshman Audi Crooks matched her scoring output with 16 points and also went 6-for-8 from the field as ISU (7-4) overcame a sluggish start to outlast the injury-depleted Panthers (1-8) in its final nonconference game of the season.

 “There’s no one I respect more in this profession than (UNI head) coach (Tanya) Warren and her staff,” Cyclone head coach Bill Fennelly said. “The job they do, the way they do it is incredible and you saw that tonight — how hard they played, the way they played.”

 Six ISU players scored in double figures, including freshman Addy Brown, who totaled 11 points, 12 rebounds and seven assists. Senior forward Isnelle Natabou also recorded a double-double with 11 points and 10 rebounds off the bench.

 “The last thing I told our team is, ‘We don’t have a star,’” Fennelly said. “And sometimes that’s good and sometimes that’s not good. If you understand you’re a (part) of a team, not a star, then when it’s your turn, you show up, you play, you do your job. And I told them before the game, ‘A gift is a voluntary willingness to do things for other people and give them something,” and I thought tonight our bench was tremendous.”

 So was Panther star Maya McDermott, who scored a career-high 30 points and helped her team score 10 of the game’s first 12 points before ISU began chipping away midway through the first quarter. The Cyclones tied the game at 16-16 on Ryan’s first basket of the game late in the first quarter, but she was just getting started.

 UNI led, 20-18, with 7:39 left in the second quarter and Ryan immediately drilled a 3-pointer to ignite an 11-3 run capped by Joens’ putback basket that gave the Cyclones a 29-23 edge. Ryan — playing in her second game after missing most of the nonconference season with a lower leg injury — notched 11 points and four assists in 15-plus minutes.

 “You could make a case that if she doesn’t play, we don’t win,” Fennelly said. “And I don’t know that you’d be wrong. Those were pretty impressive 15 minutes in a lot of ways and it’s what we talked about after the last game, and we talked about before the game, she just knows what to do, when to do it, how to do it, and lets the other players just play.”

 Ryan’s minutes undoubtedly will increase as she becomes healthier and Joens should see a spike in playing time, as well.

 “Tonight was her night,” Fennelly said of Joens. “(I’m) really excited for her because she shows up every single day and probably should be playing more. And that will change. I promise you. But she’s a kid that understands her role and tonight dramatically impacted the game.”