Coming off a devastating loss to No. 8 North Carolina to blemish their perfect season, the Cyclones were looking for a bounce-back game as they headed home to take on SIUE.
They got just that.
Everything was working for the Cyclones as they cruised to a 93-43 win. Although SIUE may not have been up to the same competition as Iowa State faced in the Phil Knight Invitational, the big win quieted any whispering of doubt in the dominance of the Cyclones this season.
“After what we experienced in Portland, we were really eager to get going and just the sooner the next game came the better,” Lexi Donarski said.
With just one day of rest in between, the Cyclones geared up and took the court in Hilton Coliseum to take on the Cougars. From the jump, the scoreboard was all Iowa State.
The Cyclones jumped out to a lead early and never let it go as the lead grew larger and larger. The main reason Iowa State was able to dominate the entire night was the efforts of the big three: Ashley Joens, Donarski and Emily Ryan.
Joens had been hot and cold in the Phil Knight Invitational, as a lingering injury from practice just days ago slowed her down offensively. A less-than-ideal shooting night against Michigan State saw her break her consecutive game streak scoring double digits. She bounced back against North Carolina, but her heroics weren’t enough to pull out a win.
“I’ve said this many times. I have no idea what’s gonna happen game-to-game, day-to-day, but I do have an idea that the people that are playing for this team, they get it and they’re going to play hard,” Iowa State head coach Bill Fennelly said. “When we make a shot or two, then we’re gonna be pretty good. When we don’t, like most people, we’re gonna struggle.”
The No. 1 scorer in Iowa State history started the season quieter than usual, and that trend carried over to Tuesday night. Although she didn’t put up crazy numbers, Joens did what she could to help her team succeed.
Joens did her job, putting up 11 points, going 6-6 from the free throw line and picking up seven boards to go with the points. However, the true star of the night was a different member of the big three.
Donarski started out red hot, burying the first three she took. From that moment, it seemed as though points would flow like water.
“The team just was moving the ball really well,” Donarski said. “It was a great game to play after Portland.”
Donarski found herself in foul trouble early in the game against North Carolina, which caused her to sit on the bench more than she would like. It was tough for her to get into a rhythm and show her prowess on defense.
“The other night, she got some fouls called on her and never really got into the flow of the game,” Fennelly said.
However, when fouls weren’t holding her back, Donarski shined on the floor.
Donarski used her dominance as a defender to create opportunities for her team and herself, finishing the first half with 18 points, three rebounds and three assists. She also knocked down a couple of threes to keep the Cyclones hot from beyond the arc.
Donarski’s offensive output didn’t cease in the second half, as she started the third quarter putting up shots. When the buzzer signaled the end of the third quarter, her job was done.
She finished her night with 22 points, shooting over 50% from the floor. Along with that, her three steals and six assists helped facilitate the offense en route to a dominating 50-point victory. Those steals came into play as the Cyclones led 23-5 in turnovers at the end of the night.
“She always plays really hard, she’s very engaged,” Fennelly said. “Her and Emily play off each other so well.”
Ryan had herself a game as well, finishing the night with 13 points, four rebounds and seven assists. In fact, she didn’t miss a shot until the second half of the game.
Going into halftime, the big three all had double-digit points. That was thanks to the efforts of Donarski to force turnovers on defense and Ryan to move the ball on offense.
The big three combined for 40 of the team’s 55 total points in the first half. At the end of the game, they combined for a total of 46.
The efforts of the big three allowed each of them to take breathers through the third quarter and mount a lead big enough to finish their games with a quarter to go. Leading by over 40 points, each of the three took turns on the bench, cheering on their team as the lead continued to grow.
The fourth quarter saw a full court of fresh faces as Iowa State’s lead grew to 50, where it would eventually plateau. Without Joens, Donarski and Ryan on the court, the Cyclones scored just 15 points. Nearly half the points of the quarter where they played.
The impact the big three have was clear as day in the blowout win.
With in-state rival Iowa looming in the near future, the impact of the big three will need to be more present than ever. Stephanie Soares did her best in the Phil Knight Invitational to make up for the lack of production, but that bandaid can’t be a permanent fix.
The road ahead will get tougher and tougher.
“I really don’t think with our team it’s a bad thing,” Fennelly said. “I think it’s gonna be a good thing.”
Source : IoWastedDialy