Iowa State looks toward new pieces in its matchup against Iowa


Daniel Jacobi

Senior Ashley Joens takes a contested shot against Northern Iowa Nov. 16.

In 2018, a young Ashley Joens helped bring her team within one score of No. 16 Iowa. With time running out, Joens missed a corner three as the Cyclones fell shy 73-70 in Iowa City.

Four years later, a dazzling career and recent victory over the Hawkeyes helps wash away the bad memory for Joens. But the miss still lingers for the Iowa City native, who has yet to win in her hometown.

“I don’t really remember a whole lot, I just remember freshman year when I missed that shot in the corner,” Joens said. “But, I mean, that’s in the past and we’re here now in the present.”

No. 10 Iowa State will take on No. 16 Iowa in a second consecutive top-25 matchup. Last season, Iowa State conquered Iowa for the first time since 2015, marking Jones’ first win in the series. Her 26 points made the difference in the 77-70 win, and the Cyclones will look to Joens for a similar performance.

On the other side of the state, junior Caitlin Clark has become a star in her own right. She garnered national attention last season with highlight-reel shots and the ability to generate points, earning All-American honors and contending for player of the year.

Two All-Americans leading ranked teams for an in-state battle is a headline-grabber, but it’s not the entire story.

“It’s usually the star players, I always say, cancel each other out,” head coach Bill Fennelly said.

With two top players in the sport going head-to-head, the difference could be made with all the other pieces on the floor.

Players like junior Lexi Donarski — who will be guarding Clark — and junior Emily Ryan will be critical to the result. New players like senior Stephanie Soares or sophomore Denae Fritz add another layer to Iowa State’s game plan.

“It’s Iowa State vs. Iowa, it’s not Ashley Joens vs. Caitlin Clark,” Joens said.

One of the most notable lineup changes since the previous matchup is the addition of Soares. She adds a new look in the paint and commands the rim as the tallest player on the floor. She has averaged 16.3 points per game so far this season and will look to make her presence known against the Hawkeyes.

The matchup will be one of the first high-profile games for Soares at Iowa State, who transferred to compete on the biggest stages. She has been one of the most impactful players for the Cyclones this season, and her influence on the game could make a difference.

“(Soares) is gonna have to play well, but this is her first situation where she’s been in a game like this,” Fennelly said.

Iowa State will face Iowa on the road 6 p.m. Wednesday.