Three Big Takeaways: Iowa State narrowly escapes against UNI


Daniel Jacobi II

Emily Ryan runs past a defender in the game against UNI at the McLeod Center on Nov. 16, 2022.

Payne Blazevich, Sports Reporter

With 2:17 to go, No. 7 Iowa State trailed Northern Iowa 85-83. The Cyclones had been shooting lights out for three quarters, but the team’s leading scorers went cold. 

As junior Emily Ryan walked the ball up the court, the Panther crowd roared. Iowa State was on the ropes again against Northern Iowa, and it was in danger of seeing an undefeated record go up in smoke. 

The ball crossed half-court, and sophomore Denae Fritz set a screen at the top of the key, freeing up Ryan to bury a wide-open triple–Iowa State with the lead. 

A critical stop at the other end gave the Cyclones the ball back. After a cross-court pass, Ryan got the ball at the free-throw line, knocking down a mid-range jumper. A series of stops kept the Cyclone lead intact as time ran out. 

Iowa State survives.

The close game was not anything unusual over the past few years. Northern Iowa has been a constant thorn in Iowa State’s side, hanging with the Cyclones each time the two teams square off.  

Iowa State was tested in its first road game of the season, eventually securing the win 88-85. While they didn’t leave unscathed, the Cyclones overcame another challenging early season matchup. 

Cyclones escape

In years past, Iowa State has struggled against its in-state rival. The Cyclones squeaked out a one-point victory against Northern Iowa at home last season. In 2019, the Panthers won the matchup outright, 71-63. 

“I think people will probably question your sanity in playing these games,” head coach Bill Fennelly said prior to the matchup.

Northern Iowa has consistently been a well-prepared, physical opponent for Iowa State, and with the game taking place in Cedar Falls, the Cyclones needed to play at their best. 

Despite some back-and-forth early in the first half, Iowa State began to run away with the game. The Cyclones swiftly built a lead in the second and third quarters, creating a 14-point gap with 9:29 left in the third. 

But, a sustained run from Northern Iowa brought the Panthers back in contention. They took the lead with 4:09 to go, swinging momentum in their favor. 

Had it not been for a miraculous bounce on a triple from junior Lexi Donarski or the pair of clutch shots from Ryan, Iowa State would be facing a loss three games into the season. But instead, Iowa State managed to pull away, holding off a Northern Iowa team hungry for an upset. 

Improved shooting

After a poor shooting performance against Southern, Iowa State bounced back with one of its best shooting nights all season. The Cyclones were consistent behind the arc, and a high-powered offensive performance helped mitigate Northern Iowa’s scoring ability. 

The Panthers shot the ball effectively, going 32-58 from the field. In order to avoid an early season upset, Iowa State had to put up points as well. 

The Cyclones shot 50%, including 15 makes from the three-point line. The performance was a vast improvement from its 42.3% from the field against Southern. Senior Ashley Joens bounced back as well, leading the team with 26 points, followed closely by senior Stephanie Soares with 23. 

Although Iowa State shot better against Northern Iowa, there was a stretch in the fourth quarter where the Cyclones struggled to find a basket. The run of offensive inefficiency nearly cost Iowa State the game, as Northern Iowa mounted a comeback. 

Fight until the end

The heated in-state matchup saw plenty of tugs, fouls

The Iowa State bench erupts after a foul was called in the game against UNI at the McLeod Center on Nov. 16, 2022. (Daniel Jacobi II)

and players crashing to the ground. Northern Iowa was the most physical team Iowa State has faced so far, helping to prevent the Cyclones from running away with the game. 

The Panthers chipped away at Iowa State under the basket, racking up 15 personal fouls in the process. While the constant fouls slowed down Iowa State’s offensive rhythm, the Cyclones made up for it at the free-throw line, making 11 of 13 attempts. 

Unlike in previous years, Iowa State was able to respond to the abuse with some physicality of its own. Soares and Ryan both had a pair of blocks, and the Cyclones earned seven takeaways. 

Northern Iowa’s constant pressure challenged Iowa State at times, but the team was able to respond. Although they were pushed to the brink, the Cyclones escaped with a hard-fought, narrow win over their in-state rival.