Strong defense carries Cyclones in season opener


Iowa State freshman Denae Fritz plays defense in Iowa State’s season-opener against Omaha on Nov. 9.

Aaron Hickman

In a game where Iowa State had trouble getting the ball through the net, the team had to rely on their defense to come out with a win. And they sure did.

The Cyclones didn’t shoot well, but their opponent shot even worse, as the Omaha Mavericks shot 33 percent from the floor and 20 percent from beyond the arc.

“We didn’t shoot the ball great, but I thought we guarded really well,” Head Coach Bill Fennelly said. “I think our team sometimes doesn’t get enough credit for that. I thought Ash, Lex and Em really set the tone defensively, and that’s the nature of the game. When you’re not making shots, which we weren’t today, you’ve got to guard people.”

The team had 15 steals to Omaha’s five, and sophomore guard Emily Ryan accounted for nine of them. Ryan only shot three for ten from the floor, but was a great example of locking in on defense when the offense isn’t going your way.

With those 15 steals the Cyclones also dominated points off turnovers 19-6. Less than 15 seconds into the second quarter Ryan stole the ball and took it all the way for an easy layup. Plays like that are how Iowa State was able to build up a big lead after a rough first half.

Despite the rough shooting, Fennelly isn’t too worried.

“We have not shot the ball great in our exhibition game or our scrimmage,” Fennelly said. “But we have kids that can make shots, and now it’s just a matter of doing it with the lights on. I’m not going to tell them to quit shooting. That’s just not how we are. They’ll be fine.”

One of the players who was just fine was sophomore guard Lexi Donarski, who led the team with 18 points and shot 50 percent from beyond the arc. After getting off to a slow start, she put on a three point clinic in the second half.

“I’m just very grateful for all the teammates around me because most of those threes were uncontested,” she said. “I knew that they would fall eventually. It makes it a lot easier when we’re attacking hard and they have to help out on other kids.”

After only shooting 26 percent from three-point land on 39 attempts, the team will need to find some level of consistency moving forward against better opponents.

“We’ve just got to get used to playing at the level that women’s basketball is [at],” Ashley Joens said. “I think this was a good start and we’ve just got to keep building off of it.”