‘They walked up that ramp with their head up’: Cyclones take down No. 17 Texas


Daniel Jacobi II

Denae Fritz attempts a layup during the game against Texas in Hilton Coliseum on Feb. 13, 2023

Payne Blazevich, Sports Reporter

Coming off one of its worst shooting performances this season, No. 22 Iowa State had its back against the wall. 

Shots hadn’t been falling for the Cyclones, and foul trouble plagued the team in a series of recent losses. In a turnaround game against No. 17 Texas Monday night, Iowa State played like it had nothing to lose. 

“The first two minutes I think everyone calmed down a little bit,” head coach Bill Fennelly said. 

In the team’s second shot of the game, guard Denae Fritz sank a three. Guard Ashley Joens followed with a three of her own and guard Lexi Donarski hit one from the corner soon after. The sequence of threes preluded a bounce-back offensive performance en route to a 66-61 win.  

Iowa State’s success behind the arc was a deviation from the past couple of weeks where the Cyclones struggled to hit open looks. The team also staved off a late comeback attempt, holding on for a five-point victory.

The shooting touch came when the team needed it most, helping Iowa State to its first win over the Longhorns in three years. 

“I think tonight, win or lose, I think at least they left here thinking, ‘Hey, we can compete with them now,’” said Fennelly, who secured his 750th career win as a head coach. 

The opening three-pointer was one of two for Fritz, while Joens and Donarski played aggressively behind the arc. The pair combined for six triples in total, each with three of their own, while the team shot 8-15 from behind the arc.

Joens led the scoring effort with 24 points, shooting 43.8% from the field. Four players from the backcourt reached double figures, spreading the ball around and attacking the basket any chance they had. 

In a game where physicality has consistently been the defining factor, the Cyclones were able to shake off the blows, continuing to drive toward the hoop.

“Those kids are tough, man. They compete,” Texas head coach Vic Schaefer said. “They have a way of doing things, and they’re dang good at it.” 

Iowa State was able to dish out a little physicality of its own on the defensive end. The Cyclones were quick to the ball and aggressive when the guards drove down the floor.

Whatever the Longhorns gave on defense, Iowa State gave back in return. 

The Cyclones secured nine steals and forced Texas to turn the ball over 11 times. Guard Emily Ryan led Iowa State with four takeaways, followed by Joens and forward Nyamer Diew, while Fritz had three blocks. 

Donarski sustained a blow to the mouth late in the first quarter but quickly returned from the locker room with stitches and checked back into the game. Iowa State took some blows, but the team was ready to respond with a few of their own.

“They’re very physical, but that just means that we have to come together as a team more and share the ball,” Donarski said. “Different people had the opportunity to bring it up, so it’s not the same person that’s got to drive it against their pressure the entire night.”

The win came at a critical moment in Iowa State’s season. With five regular season games remaining, the Cyclones are playing for seeding in the Big 12 tournament as well as home court advantage in the NCAA Tournament. 

Iowa State’s play has been trending downward over the past two weeks, but the team responded when absolutely necessary.

When the Cyclones aren’t shooting well, they become disjointed. But when shots are falling, all bets are off. 

Lexi Donarski is attended to by the medical staff after being hit in the face during the game against Texas in Hilton Coliseum on Feb. 13, 2023 (Daniel Jacobi II)


An early sequence of threes set the Cyclones off in the right direction in an important late-season win. In the home stretch of Big 12 play, Iowa State players can hold their head a little higher throughout the rest of the regular season.

“The last thing I tell (the team) every game is, when they walk up the ramp, ‘Your heart needs to be full, your head needs to be up, put a smile on your face because you’re excited about the future,’” Fennelly said. “I think tonight they walked up that ramp with their head up, and we haven’t been able to do that against Texas very often.”