Takeaways: McGraw-Espenmiller ready to contribute, point guard battle to start season off


Mikinna Kerns/Iowa State Daily

Iowa State then-sohpomore center Kristin Scott falls to the ground during the Iowa State vs. Kansas Senior Night basketball game May 4 in Hilton Coliseum. The Cyclones defeated the Jayhawks 69-49.

Jack Shover

Iowa State beat Missouri Western State 87-54 on Wednesday in the team’s last exhibition before the season starts against Southern University on Thursday.

During the exhibition game, Maggie Espenmiller-McGraw proved she is ready to contribute immediately as a freshman, the team’s point guard battle showed two early leaders and the team saw what life without Kristin Scott was like.

Espenmiller-McGraw ready to contribute as a scorer

Espenmiller-McGraw, a freshman, has already shown she is ready to contribute to the Cyclones early, especially in the scoring column.

The five-star recruit didn’t start for the Cyclones, but she scored 15 points on 6-9 shooting.

Entering the season, coach Bill Fennelly said he wanted to have her play point guard this season, but after missing eight practices this season due to illness and with the Cyclones’ first regular season game Thursday, the team will primarily use her as a shot maker rather than a primary facilitator.

In the exhibition, Espenmiller-McGraw had zero assists despite playing for the most minutes of any Cyclone other than Ashley Joens, who also played 26 minutes.

Point guard battle

With freshman Espenmiller-McGraw going to primarily play shooting guard this season, Iowa State has a three-way position battle at point guard between Jade Thurmon, Rae Johnson and Nia Washington.

While Johnson started, she scored zero points on two shots. Thurmon scored 16 points during the game, shooting 5-6 from the floor and 6-9 from the charity stripe.

Thurmon outscored Johnson, but Johnson was able to generate more assists — with five for Johnson to Thurmon’s three — and Johnson avoided any turnovers while Thurmon had three.

Meanwhile, Washington only played ten minutes during the game and failed to score.

Early in the season, it looks like Thurmon and Johnson have an early leg up on Washington in the battle for the starting spot, but moving forward, Johnson could serve as the team’s starter to facilitate the offense since no other player had more assists in the exhibition and Thurmon could provide the Cyclones’ scoring punch off of the bench.

Life without Scott

Scott missed Iowa State’s exhibition due to a back injury and won’t be back until next week at the earliest since her injury is being reevaluated by the Cyclone medical staff Monday.

Entering this season, Scott is a preseason second-team All-Big 12 selection and is expected to provide the Cyclones with a plethora of scoring and rebounding at the post position.

Scott excelled scoring the ball from three-point range and posting up last season.

In Scott’s absence, Inès Nezerwa performed well, scoring 14 points on 4-6 shooting from the floor and 6-6 from the free-throw line. She also grabbed eight rebounds.

With that being said, Nezerwa had four personal fouls in only 19 minutes played. Nezerwa struggled with fouling last season as well. Against Missouri Western State, she was taken out after fouling early and replaced with Morgan Kane.

Kane redshirted as a freshman last season and in her relief of Nezerwa, she scored four points and had three turnovers. Her experience showed though, and she had four turnovers.

If Iowa State wants to have its post position produce as efficiently as possible, the Cyclones will need Scott to return as soon as possible, so Nezerwa can operate as the team’s backup and Kane can develop more behind Nezerwa and Scott.