Cyclones narrowly escape NCAA Tournament upset against UT Arlington


Jacob Rice/Iowa State Daily

Ashley Joens, Lexi Donarski and Morgan Kane defend in the Cyclones NCAA Tournament win over UT Arlington on March 18.

Andrew Harrington

AMES — Ashley Joens, Emily Ryan and Lexi Donarski combine for 70 points to help No. 3 seed Iowa State women’s basketball narrowly escape an upset at the hands of No. 14 seed University of Texas at Arlington on Friday.

Iowa State Head Coach Bill Fennelly knows his team did not play to the best of its ability, but advancing to the next round is all that matters to him at the end of the day.

“I know there will be a lot of things about what we didn’t do and that’s ok, this tournament is not about that. This tournament is about getting things done so you can practice and play again,” Fennelly said.

The first quarter did not go according to plan for the Cyclones, falling behind 22-14 and playing poorly overall. If one thing was made clear in this quarter, it was that UT Arlington came to play.

Quarter number two was much of the same for Iowa State, limping into the half with a six-point deficit.

“I think to our kids’ credit, I told them at halftime you just played maybe the worst 20 minutes we’ve played all season, the great news is there’s 20 minutes to go, go play the best,” Fennelly said.

The usual strongpoint for the Cyclones, three-point shooting, was just not there for them in the first half. Finishing just 1-9 on three-point shots in the half, the Cyclones were not hitting their usual shots to start the game.

The three-point shooting was an aspect that helped the Cyclones turn the game on its head in the final 20 minutes. Making six triples on 11 attempts after halftime helped Iowa State to put the game away.

Coming into the game, all eyes were on the matchup between forwards Joens and Starr Jacobs, and Joens got the better of the matchup.

Scoring 36 points – an Iowa State NCAA Tournament record – and snatching 15 rebounds, Joens had one of the best games of her career in one of the biggest moments.

“I mean, [Joens] had 36 and it’s one of those nights. I mean she could have had 50,” Fennelly said.

Jacobs was guarded by Nyamer Diew for much of the game, and Diew held her own inside. Diew held Jacobs to 19 points on just 6-15 shooting and managed to block her three times.

Fennelly had nothing but praise for Diew after the game, saying when the usual post players were not working for the team, she gave them the solid minutes inside that they needed.

While Joens put on a top-tier performance for most of the game, Ryan stole the show in the fourth quarter. Ryan mustered up 11 points in the final frame, providing the final spark that the Cyclones needed to take the win.

“Honestly, I just was trying to make the right play for our team whatever that happened to be at the time. Just trying to find a way to win and that’s what we did,” Ryan said.

“I think she has a sense that we had a lot of blank looks on our faces at times and Emily just said okay, give me the ball and I’ll do something,” Fennelly said.

Iowa State will take on sixth seeded Georgia on Saturday with a Sweet Sixteen berth on the line. Game time and television assignments are still to be determined.