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Iowa State Daily

Cyclone freshmen putting in work, aim to end season strong

Kelsey+Joens+taking+a+three+during+the+Iowa+State+vs.+Oklahoma+game+in+Hilton+Coliseum%2C+Feb.+10%2C+2024.
Elizabeth Lane
Kelsey Joens taking a three during the Iowa State vs. Oklahoma game in Hilton Coliseum, Feb. 10, 2024.

AMES — There are only three weeks left in the regular season for the Iowa State women’s basketball team, and the young team is working hard to finish strong. 

Six more games are to be played before the team heads to Kansas City, Missouri, for the Big 12 Tournament.

The Cyclones started Big 12 play 6-0, including the forfeited win against TCU, but have since hit a roadblock. Iowa State is 1-5 in its last six games, and the road only gets tougher from here.

Iowa State had a hard time finishing road games during the second six-game stint. Of the five losses, four came on the road and were by eight points or less.

The duality of the first two six-game stretches is completely different. Getting to the finish line both in games and in the season is now the focus for the Cyclones.

“We’ve gotta finish,” freshman Audi Crooks said. “Oftentimes we put together three good quarters, but a lot of times we have a lapse or a team goes on a run, and we don’t answer.”

The answer may lie within the freshmen. When the group of five plays well together, Iowa State performs better.

Crooks has emerged as the team’s leading scorer at 17.7 points per game, with the rest of the freshmen taking on bigger roles as the season has progressed. The group has gelled over the course of the season and views the bond as a reason for some of the success the team has found.

“We’re all super close,” freshman Kelsey Joens said. “We hang out all the time, so having that bond outside of practice and everything, it means a lot when you get into the games because you have that connection.”

That connection on the court was strong to start the season but has dipped. Head coach Bill Fennelly knows the recent struggles have been tough and does not want his team to lose motivation because of it.

“The game ends, and the scoreboard goes off, and the lights go out. But the light inside of you, the light that keeps you motivated, has to keep being very, very bright,” Fennelly said.

The extended length of the college season as compared to the high school schedule was a question earlier in the season as to how the freshmen would finish. The late-season slate includes No. 7 Kansas State and No. 5 Texas, which could present big opportunities if the Cyclones can grab an upset or two.

“The five freshmen are the core of this team,” Fennelly said. “They’re playing the majority of the minutes. They’re doing most of the heavy lifting, and it’s gotten a lot heavier recently.”

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