Iowa State Cyclones guard Hannah Belanger (13) takes a three-point shot against North Dakota State during the second quarter of an NCAA women’s basketball at Hilton Coliseum on Sunday, Dec. 10, 2023, in Ames, Iowa. © Nirmalendu Majumdar/Ames Tribune / USA TODAY NETWORK
AMES – Arianna Jackson hit a three to break a 26-26 tie in the third quarter in Iowa State’s 69-61 win over Kansas Wednesday at Hilton Coliseum.
Then, Hannah Belanger canned one of her own. On the ensuing possession, Jackson hit another and then Belanger did, too.
The three’s were all of the sudden raining down inside the arena, as the Cyclones built on to their lead that would give them the win.
“When (shots) are going in, the net is like an ocean,” Belanger said. “And you can’t miss.”
Belanger finished with her most points as a Cyclone, tallying 19 on six 3-point makes before it was all said and done.
Kansas made its way back by way of a 10-0 run in the fourth quarter that pressured the Cyclones, and made it a two-possession game on multiple occasions late.
Each time, Iowa State handled the pressure.
“From a coaching standpoint, everyone talks about being a team,” Iowa State coach Bill Fennelly said. “It’s a strong word and a really big thing to figure out, and I think what you’ve seen the last two games – Saturday, it was the freshmen’s turn and today it was the old guys’ turn. (Nyamer Diew, Emily Ryan and Belanger) were the ones that flipped it, and I think that’s a credit to all (of the) nine (players) that played.”
Diew led the team with a +15 plus-minus, and Ryan’s +14 wasn’t far behind. The senior point guard split minutes with Jackson, and seemed to calm the Iowa State offense when she was on the court, especially down the stretch.
Addy Brown stood out again, collecting 14 points and 13 rebounds, including a standout 3-pointer that helped push her team to the finish.
Iowa State improved to 2-0 to start Big 12 play with the victory, which looked like a tall task before the start of the conference season.
“When you play, and you win, you’re separating yourselves from six teams,” Fennelly said. “And especially for us – our first two wins were against teams we play twice – you’re worried about getting swept or whatever. 2-0 is tremendous. We’re excited about it and everyone knows what’s ahead, but there’s a big gap as the year goes on.
With a road win under their belt, and Wednesday’s win, it’s giving the Cyclones both confidence and momentum as they get into the heart of the conference slate.
“We have to live in that space, we just do. We’re not going to out-athlete you, out-talent you, out-mature you, but we’ve just got to find a way – and that is the Iowa State way of doing things. (We’re) ecstatic to be 2-0 and I’m really proud of the way we weathered different things.”
Iowa State will return to the court to face BYU on the road Saturday at 5:00 p.m. on ESPN+.