Three Big Takeaways: Iowa State makes quick work of Jacksonville


Owen Aanestad

Stephanie Soares reaches for a block against Jacksonville on Dec. 11, 2022.

Christian Royston, Sports Reporter

AMES — Coming off a tough road loss to in-state rival Iowa, the Cyclones were looking for a dominant performance against Jacksonville to get them back on the right track.

The Cyclones got their wish in front of a home crowd, taking the win 84-50. Scoring seemed to come easy through a bulk of the game, as the starters were able to rest through the final quarter.

The statement win showed that even though threes weren’t falling – Iowa State shot 29 percent from three – creativity would allow the team to run away with games.

Shaking off the dust

Starting games with cold shooting seems to be a trend for Iowa State so far in the season.

The Cyclones brute forced their way to a small lead in the first half over the Hawkeyes in Wednesday’s loss because of cold shooting. That trend continued in the early minutes of Sunday’s game.

“It seemed like the other night, we couldn’t make anything,” Iowa State head coach Bill Fennelly said.

Ashley Joens looks to pass against Jacksonville on Dec. 11, 2022. (Owen Aanestad)

Jacksonville came out firing on all cylinders as it jumped out to a 4-0 lead over the Cyclones early. It seemed as though Iowa State would have issues getting shots to fall, as the game started with the Cyclones shooting 1-8 from the 3-point line.

Emily Ryan got the Cyclones on the board after two minutes, knocking down a wide-open look from beyond the arc. However, that shot alone wasn’t enough momentum to get the Cyclones into a rhythm. 

Jacksonville held the game even through half of the first quarter as the Cyclones tried to pull away. The shot that got the Iowa State offense moving came late in the quarter.

“I thought [Diew] was really good,” Fennelly said. “I thought she gave us some really good energy.”

Nyamer Diew subbed into the game and got a look early in her playing time. Diew put up a deep shot that fell through the net, causing the Hilton crowd to erupt.

Right after Diew’s three, Lexi Donarski put up a three. From that point on, the Cyclones started to pull away from the Dolphins.

“We kinda started off not knocking down some shots,” Ashley Joens said. “But once they started falling and they started to come to us, it felt good.”

With how fast the Cyclones were playing, Jacksonville tried its best to slow them down. However, Iowa State took advantage of the mistakes, getting free points off fouls.

Joens and Stephanie Soares went to the line, knocking down every free throw they took. The efforts in the final minutes of the quarter gave Iowa State a double-digit lead, which only grew from there.

The momentum carried over into the second quarter, with Joens opening it up with a three. From there, it seemed as though the Cyclones were slowing down.

Iowa State needed to keep up the hot streak and not cool down too much. With the ball in Donarski’s hands, she knew what to do.

Jacksonville was playing air-tight defense in hopes of putting together a comeback. With the shot clock ticking down fast, Donarski was desperately looking for a shot.

Two Jacksonville defenders were suffocating Donarski as she was turned completely away from the basket. Three seconds were on the clock.

With the crowd counting down in unison with the shot clock, Donarski knew she had to do something. She spun away from the defenders and heaved the ball up with both hands toward the basket.

As the buzzer rang and the backboard lit up, the ball danced around the rim, bouncing high off the backboard. With everyone waiting silently, the ball eventually fell down through the net.

The Hilton crowd erupted yet again, and the Cyclones ran to the defensive side of the court, beaming with smiles. That miracle shot proved to be the momentum the Cyclones needed to get out of their funk and finish the game strong.

“It was a fun play, obviously. We didn’t have much going for us, she had two people on her and she just had to throw it up at the last second and it happened to go in,” Ryan said with a smile. “Maybe home-court rims or something like that.”

Joens and Soares: the dynamic duo

Joens entered Sunday’s game quieter than usual following the tough loss in Iowa City.

Joens wasn’t playing up to her standard, and she knew it. She needed to turn it around and Jacksonville would be the team to let her shine.

“The way she responded was exactly what I anticipated,” Fennelly said. “I thought she was fantastic from start to finish. That set the tone for everyone.”

When Joens plays well, the team plays well. Her energy helps push the team to greater heights and that was on display against Jacksonville.

Before the media timeout in the second quarter, Joens already had points on the board. She was shooting lights out from the free-throw line, but needed threes to fall.

As Donarski knocked down her buzzer-beater, Joens broke out for back-to-back makes. One of those was a three that she desperately needed.

From that point on, Joens played up to her expectations. Iowa State led 47-22 by halftime, with Joens closing in on yet another double-double.

By the end of the game, Joens had 22 points and 10 rebounds.

Along with Joens, Soares also had troubles against Iowa. With Joens playing well, Soares fed off that energy to go out and dominate an undersized Jacksonville team.

“[Soares] is such a good kid and she took the other night really hard,” Fennelly said. “It just wasn’t a great night against a really good team.”

Soares missed all six of her free throws against Iowa. She didn’t let that linger in her mind, as she went perfect from the line in the win on Sunday.

Just like Joens, Soares ended the game with 20 points. The duo combined for 42 points at the end of the day, which accounted for a majority of the team’s points at the end of the third quarter.

Both players needed great bounce-back games, and they got just that.

Just another day for the defense

Constant pressure on defense helped the Cyclones put the game out of reach early on.

Whenever Jacksonville went up for a shot or tried to drive down the lane, a Cyclone defender was there. With Cyclones in the faces of Jacksonville shooters, shots weren’t falling.

“I thought defensively, we followed the game plan perfectly,” Fennelly said.

At halftime, the Dolphins had only attempted five 3-pointers, making just one of them. By the start of the final quarter, they had attempted four more, making just one.

It was clear that the Cyclones wouldn’t give Jacksonville any breathing room, as the game was as well as wrapped up after three quarters. The Cyclones hung onto over a 30-point lead through the majority of the second half.

The second half was more of the same story. 

By the end of the game, Jacksonville shot just 35 percent from the field. That included just four 3-pointers on the day. 

Iowa State made quick work of the Dolphins, winning by over 30 points. Not only that, the Cyclones dominated the board, outrebounding the Dolphins 43-28.

The defense dominance that was nowhere to be seen against Iowa, was on full display against Jacksonville. As long as the team keeps up that defensive prowess, Fennelly isn’t worried one bit about the scoring inconsistencies.

The shots will come, and the defense will give the offense opportunities to take shots.