Women's Basketball

ISU freshman Kelsey Joens hopes to continue to spark her team Saturday at No. 24 West Virginia

Iowa State Cyclones guard Kelsey Joens (23) takes a shot around Baylor Bears guard/forward Darianna Littlepage-Buggs (5) during the second quarter in the Big-12 conference matchup at Hilton Coliseum on Saturday, Jan. 13, 2024, in Ames, Iowa. © Nirmalendu Majumdar/Ames Tribune / USA TODAY NETWORK

 AMES — Go ahead and call Iowa State freshman guard Kelsey Joens greedy. She won’t mind. When it comes to rebounding, steals, wins — anything that can be accomplished on the basketball court, really — the former West Liberty standout’s appetite is insatiable.

 Just ask her.

 “In my mind, I’m like, ‘I want to get every one,’” the 5-10 Joens said in advance of Saturday’s 1 p.m. matchup between the Cyclones (12-6, 6-2) and No. 24 West Virginia (16-2, 5-2) in Morgantown.

 Joens spoke specifically about rebounding, but her desire to excel is all-consuming. It’s a family trait that her older sister, Ashley — ISU’s all-time leading scorer and rebounder — exhibited in five seasons as a Cyclone, but Kelsey Joens adds a unique twist to her family’s formula for success.

 “She’s a kid that I think understands that she’s not the best ball handler, she’s not the best shooter, she’s not the biggest,” ISU head coach Bill Fennelly said. “She’s like, ‘All right, how do I get myself in the game? I’ve just got to play harder than anybody else.’ And there’s no one on this team that plays harder than her. No one. Now, it’s not always good, or it doesn’t always work out, but you are never gonna take Kelsey Joens out of a game because she didn’t compete.”

 Joens averages just 21 minutes, but leads the Cyclones in steals at 1.2 per game. She also leads all ISU guards with a 4.4-per-game rebound average and has a knack for hitting a big shot when her team needs it the most.

 That’s because, as Fennelly often says, showing up is a skill.

 “And she shows up every day,” he added. “She loves to play. She’s enthusiastic about playing. And even though her skill set’s completely different, she’s got a little (senior point guard) Emily Ryan in her as far as, ‘This is what I have to do to make our team better. And I’ll do it. And I’m not gonna complain about anything. I’m just gonna do what I can do and I’m going to force them to play me because I play so hard.’”

 Joens’ tenacity will be needed against the red-hot and defense-driven Mountaineers, who have blown out three straight Big 12 foes since falling to the Cyclones, 64-54, on Jan. 10 at Hilton Coliseum.

 West Virginia boasts the best turnover margin in the league at plus-9.4 per game and has allowed zero points in the first quarter in its latest wins over league newcomers Houston and Cincinnati.

 “The way we’ve been in the first quarter, that could be a little bit of an issue,” Fennelly said. “So we’ve got to knock one in and get that zero off (of) there quick.”

 Joens will do her part — whether she’s starting or coming off the bench.

 “No lazy turnovers,” she said. “Just be strong with the ball and be ready to go from the start.”