It’s been over a decade since Bill Fennelly and Iowa State last won at Carver-Hawkeye Arena, and both will have to wait two more years for another attempt.
In a thrilling, back-and-forth affair, No. 16 Iowa defeated Iowa State by a score of 73-70. Though the matchup was headlined by two All-Americans, Bridget Carleton of Iowa State and Megan Gustafson of Iowa, it was actually Hawkeyes’ Tania Davis who proved to be the difference with a game-winning 3-point shot with only 2.6 seconds remaining.
This despite the best efforts of Carleton, who scored the Cyclones’ last five points in an attempt to will her team to victory. However, Carleton passed up the last shot in favor of Iowa City’s own Ashley Joens, who missed the game-tying 3-point attempt.
“Coach just drew up a play. I was going to get (the ball) in the high post and see who’s open,” Carleton said. “Two people came to me and I passed to Ash who was wide open in the corner. She’ll hit that shot. That’s a shot she can take and a shot she’ll hit.”
That miss was the punctuation on what was an all-around rough homecoming for Joens. With several friends and family members in attendance, the freshman struggled all night by scoring only two points on 1-of-10 shooting in 31 minutes. Normally one of the team’s better 3-point shooters, Joens was also 0-for-6 from beyond the arc.
While the team knows that Wednesday’s game was a particularly bad night for Joens, especially considering the circumstances, players and coaches aren’t concerned going forward. Carleton and Fennelly expressed their support for Joens, and said that they believe Joens will bounce back quickly.
“Obviously it was a big moment for her, but she’ll learn from it,” Carleton said. “She’ll get better. She loves basketball. She’ll be in the gym tomorrow I’m sure, hitting that shot.”
To the Cyclones’ credit as a team, it took quite a bit of effort to even get into that final shot in the first place. Through the first quarter of the game, things appeared to be heading into blowout territory as Iowa State was down by as many as 13 points early on.
However, Alexa Middleton, fresh off her best performance of the season against Arkansas on Sunday, turned the tide with a buzzer-beating shot down 21-8 to end the quarter. From there, in a statistical oddity, the Cyclones woke up and responded with a 21-8 run of their own, ultimately ending the half down only four points.
Middleton ultimately ended the night with 20 points, and though it didn’t pay off in the second half, she said that being assertive with the ball was instrumental in her success on the night.
“I think the key was just to be aggressive, to look for my shot and at the same time look for others who were open,” Middleton said after the game. “Obviously in the second half, I think I took too many shots that weren’t that great.”
What ultimately sank the Cyclones, however, was the team’s struggles at the free throw line compared to the Hawkeyes. Whereas Iowa was perfect on the night, Iowa State barely shot over 50 percent.
This fact wasn’t lost on Fennelly, who said the free throw disparity was the primary reason that Iowa extended its winning streak in the Iowa Corn Cy-Hawk series to three games.
“If you go 9-for-17 from the free throw line and the other guy goes 15-for-15, you’re going to lose on the road,” Fennelly said.
However, Fennelly also expressed his pride in the team for how they battled back against a ranked opponent on the road.
“I couldn’t be more proud of this team,” Fennelly said. “I love the way they play, I love the way they compete. I couldn’t be more proud of the effort that we put in.”
Source: Iowa State Daily