Cyclones impress in Hilton opener

David Merrill

The waters have receded and only traces of the cleanup job remain. 

Iowa State took on Minnesota State-Mankato on Thursday night in the first action at Hilton Coliseum since the floods in August.

The Cyclones put the game away by halftime and never looked back, rolling to a decisive 87-48 victory. Freshman guard Kelsey Harris led the way with 15 points thanks to hitting 5-of-6 from behind the arch. 

“It was actually really exciting,” Harris said. “It was my first time in Hilton and you always expect [the shot] to go in, but it’s always nice when it does.”

Harris had plenty of help from her teammates. Junior Lauren Mansfield scored 10 points and had seven assists in her debut as the ISU point guard. 

Senior shooting guard Kelsey Bolte scored nine points and had six rebounds to go along with sophomore forward Chelsea Poppens’ nine points and six rebounds.

Iowa State used its size advantage to dominate the glass. It out-rebounded the Mavericks 45-19.

The teams traded buckets to start the game, but the Cyclones took control midway through the first half, building a 44-25 lead going into the locker room.

Coach Bill Fennelly liked what he saw from the newcomers and was particularly impressed by Harris’ shooting and Mansfield’s play at the point guard spot.

“I just told [Mansfield], you’re now the Iowa State point guard,” Fennelly said. “You got to act like it and you got to play like it. I think she wants that. Kelsey Harris, I don’t want to jinx her, but that’s what she’s been doing in practice is hitting shots.”

Fennelly runs a very complicated system on offense and was worried about Mansfield being able to pick up the concept, but he called her one of the smartest basketball players the program has recruited.

“He basically told me to just look after the ball, lead the team, and get them into the plays that we need to do and get the ball to the right people,” Mansfield said. “I like the challenge.”

With Bolte being the only senior on the team, Fennelly has asked her to do things that are normally outside of her comfort zone. Her leadership role is going to require her to be more vocal on the court during games and in practice.

While Bolte only played the first half due to the game being well in hand by the time the second half started, she looked comfortable on the floor in her new leadership role.

“[My role] has changed significantly,” Bolte said. “It was a little bit more shocking to me than I thought it was going to be. I didn’t expect to have to scream as loud as I had to, but it’s just different trying to get everyone ready and lined up for the game and know where everyone is supposed to be.”

The game between these two teams was the first in Hilton since flooding in August that, at one point, had the entire court floating on water. The locker rooms are not in perfect order and there are still minor things that need to be addressed and fixed. 

The most important thing, Fennelly said, is that players are able to play and the fans are able to watch. More than 9,000 fans were in attendance for the game.

“It was an amazing feeling when we actually got to practice here yesterday,” Bolte said. “We just really appreciate the community and the staff at Hilton and what they’ve done for us. They brought it together really quickly and allowed us to play here. We’re all really excited to be back.”

The Cyclones next contest is against Wartburg College, from Waverly, at 2 p.m. Sunday.