Three Big Takeaways: Cyclones cruise to a title, play as a team

Iowa State guard Lexi Donarski follows through on a shot against South Dakota State on Nov. 15.

Aaron Hickman

The Cyclones showed up and showed out at the Gulf Coast Showcase over the weekend, cruising to victories over Southern and Penn State and holding on to a close victory over Massachusetts (UMass) on Sunday in the championship.

Returning to Ames with a trophy and a still-intact undefeated record, Iowa State had the expected stellar performances from key players while playing great team basketball.

Regular season trophies matter

In-season tournaments aren’t the end-all be-all for the Cyclones, but that doesn’t mean winning them should be understated.

Entering the Gulf Coast Showcase, Iowa State was the best team in the field. What’s more important is that they played like it and won the championship.

Winning by 16 over Charlotte and 34 over Penn State, another undefeated team in UMass stood in the team’s way.

It ended up being the smallest margin of victory so far this season for the Cyclones, but they got the job done and had some hardware to show for it.

Winning trophies is a confidence booster. No matter what anyone says, when a team is in a regular season tournament they want to win it.

Iowa State was clearly a team that showed up both wanting to win and expecting to win, and following through on it matters.

Playing as a team

With Nyamer Diew unable to play in two out of three contests and plenty of minutes being played by Emily Ryan, Lexi Donarski and Ashley Joens due to the nature of the point guard rotation, Iowa State needed great team performances to get through the Gulf Coast Showcase.

Four players scored at least nine points against Charlotte, six players scored at least nine against Penn State and four players scored at least 11 against UMass.

The team’s rebounding and assisting were quite possibly the best they’ve been all season, and the great defensive play and hot shooting on offense continued to bolster the Cyclones.

As the schedule will continue to get more and more difficult as the season progresses, the fact that an already thin rotation can perform so well is an encouraging sign for Iowa State.

Cyclones receive honors

After averaging 21 points and over 11 rebounds-per-game, Ashley Joens was named MVP of the tournament. Lexi Donarski was named to the All-Tournament team as well, averaging nearly 15 points and putting up 23 in the championship game.

Someone who didn’t receive any specific honors, yet continued to impress was Aubrey Joens. With all of her points coming from beyond the arc against Penn State and UMass, she shot 54 percent from three over the course of the tournament while averaging nearly 14 points and nine rebounds.

She recorded a new career high in rebounds with 11 against Penn State, and since moving into the starting lineup, Aubrey Joens seems to get better with every game.