Three Big Takeaways: Tough defense keeps SIUE out of the game


Daniel Jacobi II

Lexi Donarski shoots a free-throw in the game against SIUE in Hilton Coliseum on Tuesday Nov. 29, 2022.

Iowa State made quick work of SIUE in a bounce-back performance Tuesday night. The Cyclones found success at both ends of the floor, as the team’s biggest play-makers made an impact.

Following a letdown defeat against No. 6 North Carolina, Iowa State was in need of a rebound game with high-profile matchups on the horizon. The Cyclones secured a clear-cut 93-43 victory over winless SIUE.

Iowa State worked towards improving its deficiencies with more daunting matchups on the horizon.

All the stars shine

Iowa State got the most out of its play-makers against the Cougars. The “Big Three” thrived in the backcourt, and senior Stephanie Soares was a force in the paint.

“I think after what we experienced in Portland, we were just really eager to get going and just, the sooner the next game came the better,” said junior Lexi Donarski.

Against the Tar Heels, some of Iowa State’s best struggled to make an impact. Soares led the team in scoring with 19 points, and senior Ashley Joens had 18 of her own, but the rest of the team fell victim to a late scoring drought. Soares and Donarski were limited by foul trouble, as a confluence of events cost Iowa State a win.

The Cyclones didn’t face any restrictions against SIUE.

Joens, Donarski and junior Emily Ryan reached double-figures in scoring, and Soares commanded the basket. The Cyclones still struggled with threes at times, going 9-32 behind the arc, but the guards were able to find success driving to the hoop.

“It’s a fun team game when everyone gets involved in scoring and the ball is moving really well,” Donarski said.

Defense holds

Iowa State’s defense was just as potent as its offensive effort. The Cyclones held SIUE to 43 points, the lowest point total the team has allowed this season.

The guards applied constant pressure, earning 12 takeaways, and Soares commanded the paint with four blocks down low. The defensive effort kept SIUE out of the game early, even when the Cyclones struggled to score.

“The challenge for everyone, for us and for our team is, don’t look at the scoreboard,” head coach Bill Fennelly said.

Although Iowa State held SIUE to 43, there are still areas to adjust. The Cougars found early success with quick catch-and-shoot threes, and the defense sometimes missed assignments, leading to easy scores.

“The number on the scoreboard was low, but as we move forward, those things have gotta be better,” Fennelly said.

Iowa City up next

The matchup against SIUE was one of the few remaining low-stress matchups on Iowa State’s schedule. More challenging games, including one against No. 10 Iowa, will require Iowa State to be at its best.

“It’ll be fun,” Fennelly said. “We’re used to it here, and you know, going over there that’ll be fun.”

Iowa State has been consistently dominant against lower-ranked opponents, with one of its best performances coming against Michigan State in the Phil Knight Invitational. But when facing top competition, the Cyclones sometimes fail to put everything together.

“I don’t care what the score is, there’s things we have to do a lot better,” Fennelly said.

At times, Iowa State found trouble scoring the ball against SIUE. There were also instances where the Cougars made shots that began to generate momentum.

A stop in Iowa City will be the biggest test for the Cyclones since the loss against North Carolina. An opportunity to clean up mistakes against SIUE could help the Cyclones secure a top-10 win.

“Just making sure we’re thinking positively, getting our shots up,” Soares said. “Just doing the small things to get our team back together again.”