Takeaways: Cyclones should feel optimistic after a successful season

Iowa State Senior Inès Nezerwa before shooting a free throw against Iowa on Dec. 11th

Sam Stuve

In Kansas City, Missouri, on Thursday, the Iowa State women’s basketball team headed to practice at 11:10 a.m., a full 24 hours before their game against the Kansas State Wildcats in the first round of the 2020 Big 12 women’s basketball tournament.

But shortly before their practice began, Iowa State head coach Bill Fennelly delivered the news to his team that their season was over.

The Big 12 conference issued a statement, announcing that the women’s conference basketball tournament, along with the men’s tournament that was supposed to be completed from March 11 through March 15, was canceled due to fear of spreading COVID-19.

The cancelation of the Big 12 tournament, is one of many sporting events and seasons that have been canceled. The abrupt end to the end of the regular season came as a surprise the Cyclones, especially to the four seniors on the team.

With the 2019-2020 season ending abruptly on Thursday, the collegiate careers of Iowa State seniors, guard Adriana Camber, center Ines Nezerwa, guards Jade Thurmon and Nia Washington, are over.

These four got to end their careers on a high note on the court by leading Iowa State to victory over No. 2 Baylor in their last game.

Overcoming obstacles

Iowa State, who may have earned a spot in this season’s NCAA tournament according to ESPN’s Charlie Creme, finished the season with an 18-11 (10-8 Big 12) record. Iowa State was projected to be a nine seed in the NCAA tournament.

Throughout the season, Iowa State dealt with injuries, specifically with junior forward Madi Wise who dealt with migraines in December and January, along with All-Big 12 second team member, Kristin Scott, who had been dealing with a back injury at the beginning of the season.

Scott’s back injury caused her to play limited minutes at the end of the season, which caused her to miss the final three games of the season.

Despite this, Iowa State rallied and found a way to put themselves in the NCAA tournament discussion and probably would’ve made the NCAA tournament had it been played.

It finished the season on a three-game winning streak with a 61-58 win over the West Virginia Mountaineers on Feb. 29, a road win over the Kansas Jayhawks 61-42 on March 3 and an upset victory over the then second-ranked Baylor Lady Bears on March 8. 

The Cyclones finished tied for fourth in the Big 12 along with the Kansas Wildcats. The fourth place finish wasn’t all that shocking, as the Cyclones were coming into the season projected to finish fourth in the Big 12 by coaches in the Big 12.

Ashley Joens takes the next step

Iowa State’s leading scorer, All-Big 12 forward Ashley Joens, led the Big 12 in scoring with 20.5 points per game, which also is 11th in the NCAA.

Joens put herself in the discussion for the nation’s best small forward all season, being named a top five finalist for the Cheryl Miller Award, given to the nation’s best small forward.

Joens ended her sophomore season as the only player in the NCAA averaging over 20.0 points, 10.0 rebounds. Joens reached her 1,000th career as a Cyclone point in Iowa State’s win over No. 2 Baylor on March 8.

Iowa State should take a big leap forward next season as Joens will return for her third season, along with three starters returning from this year’s team.

Joens and Scott, both All Big 12 team players, will play along with All Big 12 freshman guard Maggie Espenmiller-McGraw and a good amount of young talent.

Big recruits are on the way

The Cyclones signed the seventh-best recruiting class in the country according to ESPN, headlined by La Crosse, Wisconsin, native and McDonalds All-American guard Lexi Donarski, who is the 12th best prospect in the class of 2020 according to ESPN.

Also in the recruiting class is sister of Ashley Joens, Iowa City, Iowa, guard Aubrey Joens who is the 54th best prospect according to ESPN. Emily Ryan, the 64th best prospect and the 77th best prospect, Sycamore, Illinois, guard Kylie Feuerbach will also be joining the highly touted recruits.