Women's Basketball

Arianna Jackson and her fellow ISU freshmen seek to stay hot Wednesday against Kansas

Iowa State Cyclones guard Arianna Jackson (2) lays up the ball around Iowa State Cyclones forward Addy Brown (24)during the third quarter of an NCAA women’s basketball at Hilton Coliseum on Sunday, Dec. 17, 2023, in Ames, Iowa. © Nirmalendu Majumdar/Ames Tribune / USA TODAY NETWORK

 AMES — As Arianna Jackson made play after play, Addy Brown bellowed out two encouraging words.

 “Big time!” Iowa State’s budding star forward yelled at her fellow freshman during Sunday’s 76-68 Big 12 season-opening win at Oklahoma State. “Big time!”

 Jackson scored a career-high 14 points on 4-for-5 3-point shooting in the road triumph for the Cyclones (8-4, 1-0), who face Kansas (7-5, 1-1) Wednesday at 6:30 p.m. at Hilton Coliseum.

 “Everyone’s gonna have their night,” said Jackson,  a legacy ISU athlete whose brother, Kendall, and father, Hez, played football for the Cyclones. “Especially with the new class of freshmen. It’s so unpredictable who is going to be your top scorer and that’s what kind of keeps other teams on their toes guarding us.”

 Brown and fellow freshman forward Audi Crooks have predictably emerged as high-performing stars early in their respective college careers.

 Crooks, a 6-3 matchup nightmare, is averaging a team-best 16.5 points and six rebounds. Brown — a MacDonald’s All-American — is averaging 14.5 points, nine rebounds and 5.8 assists.

 But they’re not the only ISU freshman making a big impact. Jackson’s breakthrough game came about 10 days after freshman guard Kelsey Joens scored a career-high 16 points in a win over Northern Iowa, and 13 days after freshman forward Jalynn Bristow scored a career-high 17 points in a victory over Troy.

 So each of the Cyclones’ freshmen has made game-changing plays in critical moments early in the season, which portends even greater contributions to come.

 “We’re not hanging banners for them yet,” said ISU head coach Bill Fennelly, whose team has won six of its past seven games. “But I think a couple things: Number one they’re very skilled. They’ve been very well-coached and they were raised the right way. They have a great appreciation for being a great teammate playing here, but I think even when we make mistakes — we’ve had really good freshmen and I don’t think scared is the right word, but (they) just weren’t ready for the moment. The mistakes these young guys make, they’re not afraid of the moment.”

 Jackson proved that on Sunday when she doubled her previous career-high in points while quadrupling her single-game benchmark in made 3-pointers. The former Des Moines Roosevelt standout had already established herself as a skilled defender and facilitator at this level, but against Oklahoma State, she proved she could score at a high level, as well.

 “She was big time, especially down the stretch when we needed her the most,” Brown said.

 Fennelly paired Jackson with recently returned All-Big 12 guard Emily Ryan in the fourth quarter of Sunday’s win. Oklahoma State cut ISU’s lead to six points multiple times in the final 10 minutes and Jackson responded by drilling 3-pointers on two of those occasions — both off assists from Ryan.

 “To have her in the game with Emily that game was a really good combination,” Fennelly said. “That won’t happen very often, but it did. So I’m not surprised. She hadn’t shot it great, but you know she can. It speaks to her that afterwards it was about, ‘The team won (and) it was my night.’”

 It was also a big night for the Jackson family, who trekked from the Liberty Bowl in Memphis to watch her play and excel in her first Big 12 game.

 “It really just made me proud that I could show them and show our fans what we could do on the road,” Jackson said.