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Emily Ryan returns as Iowa State topples Troy in offensive onslaught

Tyler Coe
Emily Ryan brings the ball up the court against Troy at Hilton Coliseum on Dec. 17, 2023.

The absence of Emily Ryan was one of the biggest questions the Iowa State women’s basketball team faced entering the season. Nyamer Diew took over as the senior leader for the Cyclones due to Ryan’s absence.

In that time, many new faces made their names known as Iowa State started 5-4 without Ryan. On Sunday, the first game during winter break, Ryan would return against Troy in Iowa State’s win 105-68.

“Offensively, we have a lot of kids that can score, and that’s what we try to tell them,” head coach Bill Fennelly said. “I think that’s why our assist numbers are so high. We share the ball really well.”

Ryan was welcomed with thunderous applause as she entered the game with 3:29 to play in the first quarter. Her presence was felt immediately after she entered, helping propel Iowa State to a comfortable lead after a shaky first quarter.

“It was well deserved,” Diew said. “[Ryan] has been working her way back and to see her get rewarded was good. She’s great. She’s a great person. She’s a great friend. She’s a great teammate. She’s a great captain. I enjoyed it.”

Ryan exited the game with four minutes left until halftime. She would not enter in the second half due to limitations on her first game back.

Ryan did not shoot a lot and made one of her two attempts from the field. Her impact was in other areas, getting four rebounds, two assists, making all three of her free throws and being a leader and facilitator for the team.

“The return to play protocol is very long-term and very much with the student-athlete in mind,” Fennelly said. “[Ryan] has fought hard to play.”

Her play helped spark a big Cyclone win that did get off to a slow start. Iowa State took a while to establish a rhythm with many early turnovers.

Turnovers plagued the Cyclones in the first half with 13 and they finished with 18 turnovers. That set a new season high in turnovers after setting season lows in the past two games at 11.

The Cyclones combated the turnovers with a multitude of 3-pointers led by Diew. Iowa State’s first four baskets were all threes, two from Diew.

Diew was the leader from three, going 4-of-4 in the first half and 6-of-7 in the game to finish with 20 points. The six threes set a career-high for Diew, with her previous high being four last season against Oklahoma.

“A lot of it was my teammates and just them finding me in the open areas and just having the confidence that I could make it,” Diew said.

Diew was one of five Cyclones to hit double-figure scoring. This was the second game in a row that five or more Cyclones scored 10 or more points.

Iowa State’s scoring leader was Audi Crooks with 21, which included a first quarter three. Jalynn Bristow had 17 points and went 4-of-6 from three, Addy Brown had 13 points and 14 rebounds for another double-double and Hannah Belanger had 12 points.

“Every night we just try to take what they give us, and early on I think that they knew they were a little bit out-matched, just like in size on the inside, so they started bringing double-teams and triple-teams,” Crooks said. “So then, obviously somebody’s open and when you have shooters like these, they’re gonna knock them down.

The first half shooting for the Cyclones was on fire. Iowa State shot over 50% in the first half after a slow start and rode that momentum into the second half.

The Cyclones shot over 50% in the second half as well, finishing with a shooting percentage of 53.8%. Threes were falling too, as Iowa State shot 16-for-30 from the perimeter.

Iowa State never let off the gas pedal, scoring a season-high 37 fourth quarter points to win the game by 35, a season-high margin of victory.

Not only was the offense clicking, the defense was set on lockdown again. Troy shot 35% from the field and 20% from three.

Diew credits Ryan’s return as a big reason why the Cyclones performed the way they did. She said her presence going forward is going to be important as the two will finish their college careers at Iowa State.

“[Ryan] and I, we were always really good teammates,” Diew said. “Now this year, we’ve definitely gotten closer, and she’s instilled this faith in me like ‘Hey, Ny, I trust you,’ and she’s always had my back.”

The Cyclones’ rhythm is picking up as the season closes in on conference play. Still, the question of how much Ryan will be present in games is still there, but now that she has played, the future looks promising this season for Iowa State.

“There’s no way we could be who we are without Emily Ryan. She’s probably the best teammate, the best person on this team,” Diew said.

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