Poppens powers Cyclones to 58-50 victory

Dan Tracy

Without a career high in points from Kelsey Bolte or a third consecutive double-digit assists night from Lauren Mansfield, the Cyclones were in need of an offensive spark as they tried to hold off a pesky Prairie View A&M team.

Enter sophomore forward Chelsea Poppens.

Poppens, who started the game on the bench, logged her first double-double of the season with 18 points and 15 rebounds as Iowa State was outscored 30-22 in the second half but held on for a 58-50 victory.

“You’re talking about a kid that started last night and got benched tonight, you make a choice, you pout or you do what she did,” said coach Bill Fennelly about Poppens. “[She] certainly was by far the best player in the game tonight and number two would have been a long way down.”

The win improves the Cyclones to 10-2 on the season and marks the 56th consecutive non-conference home win for Fennelly’s squad.

“Basketball is the ultimate team game, and this was the first time our team literally had to win the game, and it was the first time that Lauren Mansfield and Kelsey Bolte didn’t carry us,” Fennelly said.

Poppens, the team’s leading rebounder and fourth-leading scorer, hadn’t started a game on the bench since she battled an illness Dec. 9 when Iowa State fell to Iowa 62-40.

“Chelsea was a monster in the second half, so we were lucky to have her in there for our team,” Bolte said.

Dominique Smith was the lone scorer for the Panthers through the first 12 minutes of the game, while a balanced attack of six Cyclones got on the board as Iowa State took a 24-9 lead early in the opening half. A taller Iowa State front court took advantage in the post as the Cyclones went to the free throw line early and often in the game, knocking down 12 of 14 attempts in the first half en route to a 36-20 halftime lead.

Iowa State would increase their lead to 20, but Prairie View A&M’s full-court press forced the Cyclones into nine turnovers in the first eight minutes of the second half as they cut the lead down to 42-33. The Cyclones turned the ball over 16 times in the second half and finished the game with a season-high 22 turnovers.

“It was ugly, but we won,” Bolte said. “We’re 10-2 and after the words it’s not going to say anything else, so we’re 10-2.”

The Panthers would get the margin as close as 51-50 with two minutes to play, but a clutch jumper from Bolte gave the Cyclones a 53-50 advantage.

“It was the third shot I had hit the whole game so I was pretty excited,” Bolte said. “I just took it off the dribble and luckily it went in.”

A three-point play by Poppens with 1:05 to play gave the Cyclones a 56-50 advantage before a pair of free throws from Bolte sealed the victory.

Freshman forward Hallie Christofferson scored in double digits for the fourth time this season with 12 points, all scored in the first half, and Bolte added eight. Mansfield came up short in her bid to become the first player in ISU history with three consecutive games with 10 assists as she dished out a game-high seven.

The surprising statistic of the night was that the ISU bench actually outscored its starters 30-28 behind sophomore forward Amanda Zimmerman’s seven points, junior guard Chassidy Cole’s five points and the 18 from Poppens.

“Everyone else just needs to step up and play a lot better when Kelsey’s not making them or they’re playing her really tight,” Poppens said.

For the Panthers, Smith scored 14 of her team’s 20 first-half points as she led the now 4-7 Panthers with 23 on the night. With Siarra Soliz also scoring 13 points for Prairie View A&M, Fennelly wasn’t pleased to see that the Cyclones, on consecutive nights, gave up more than 70 percent of their opponent’s scoring to two players.

“The thing that concerned me is that two nights in a row defensively we have let the two best players on the other team play well, and that is not the way we play,” Fennelly said.

The Cyclones will continue their six-game home stretch with a matchup against Chicago State at 2 p.m. Sunday.