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Iowa State Daily

Cyclones clean up slow start, take down UNI with six double-digit scorers

Tyler Coe
Kelsey Joens shoots a three pointer in the second half against UNI at Hilton Coliseum on Dec. 20, 2023.

The non-conference portion of the schedule came to a close Wednesday night as Iowa State hosted Northern Iowa (UNI). The Cyclones and Panthers were locked in a battle of physicality that saw Iowa State get the upper hand in the end 87-70.

“The job they do, the way they do it is incredible,” Iowa State head coach Bill Fennelly said about his team. “You saw that tonight, how hard they played, how well they played.”

In the first quarter, neither team could take an advantage even after UNI rocketed out to a 10-2 lead. Iowa State fought back thanks to a big offensive effort from forward Isnelle Natabou with seven first quarter points and a defensive effort from forward Addy Brown with six rebounds.

Tied at 16 after one quarter, Iowa State found life when guard Emily Ryan entered the game. Ryan came in halfway through the first quarter and made the basket at the end of the first quarter to tie, which ended the Panthers lead they held for the entire quarter.

Ryan continued to be a factor when she made a three, stole the ball on the ensuing defensive possession and finished with a layup. The quick five points from Ryan forced UNI to regroup with a timeout.

“I don’t know how the game would have gone, but you could make a case that if [Ryan] doesn’t play we don’t win,” Fennelly said. “Those were a pretty impressive 15 minutes in a lot of ways.”

Ryan’s minute count was up from the previous game, going from nine against Troy to 16 against UNI. Fennelly said he expected Ryan to play between 10 to 15 minutes, so she reached the upper portion of her expected total.

The Cyclones proceeded to take an eight-point halftime lead after Ryan kick-started the scoring. UNI would not go away quietly, having an answer on a lot of possessions.

It was not until the third quarter when the lead started to gain for Iowa State. The defense held UNI scoreless from the perimeter in the third while grabbing three threes of their own, two being back-to-back by Kelsey Joens and Arianna Jackson.

Joens ended up having the hot hand the rest of the way. The freshman had a big game, leading scoring with Audi Crooks with 16 points and grabbing five rebounds.

“The team, they did great. They found me when I was open,” Joens said. “It was really fun to be out there just playing.”

Joens shot well too, going 6-for-8 from the field and 3-for-4 from three. Eleven of Joens’ points came in the second half to help lift the Cyclones past the Panthers.

“I don’t think she could have played any better,” Fennelly said. “You’ve got to give her a lot of credit because with Emily Ryan coming back she kind of got bumped down a chair. No one on our team plays harder than Kelsey Joens. Everyone I think plays hard, that kid plays hard every single play and the kid loves to play.”

Joens’ final basket was a layup assisted by Ryan. On the way back down the court, Joens was smiling after finishing the play.

Many other Cyclones had a big night, with six total scoring in double figures. This marks the third straight game where at least five players have scored 10 or more points.

Joens, Ryan, Crooks, Brown, Natabou and Hannah Belanger were the double-figure scorers for the Cyclones. Crooks once again made a late three to get to 16 points and be the leading scorer with Joens.

Natabou had her first double-double at Iowa State with 11 points and 10 rebounds and Brown had her fifth straight double-double with 11 points and 12 rebounds.

“[Natabou] is going to impact success. I think tonight was one of those nights,” Fennelly said. “Their game plan obviously was a smart one to get after [Crooks], but [Natabou] went in and did some really good things.”

Having two post players has been a big positive for the Cyclones. Natabou has struggled in recent weeks but now seems to be finding a groove heading into Big 12 play.

The win over UNI marks the third straight for the Cyclones. With the non-conference slate out of the way, Iowa State sits 7-4 overall and will have a short break before its first Big 12 game.

“We work hard in practice and we’ve been improving,” Joens said. “Coming off a three-game win streak we’re ready. Our confidence is high. We can’t wait to get into the Big 12 and play.”

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