Three Big Takeaways: Special nights for Donarski, Joens in Cyclones’ big win


Iowa State guard Lexi Donarski shoots the ball in the Cyclones’ 76-58 win over Oklahoma State on Feb. 5.

Aaron Hickman

On a day where Baylor bested TCU before No. 6 Iowa State and No. 15 Oklahoma even tipped off, the Cyclones needed a win to stay tied atop the Big 12.

That win came in dominating fashion, as it was a 89-67 win over the Sooners.

Rebounding from the blowout loss at the hands of Texas on Wednesday, it was another pickup of one of those season-sweeps the team has preached about during conference play.

Playing well in all three facets of the game and picking up two special performances helped make the big win possible.

Explosive offense, stifling defense

Up against the second highest scoring offense in the country, the Cyclone defense would need a stellar performance to come out with a win.

They got that, and the offense scored the second most points the team has had in Big 12 play to put the cherry on top.

The level of production that Iowa State can get on any given night from multiple players makes them one of the most dangerous teams in the country.

On Saturday, that aspect of the team was on full display.

Four different players scored in double figures, with Ashley Joens leading the way with 28 points, Emily Ryan scoring 15, Lexi Donarski scoring 14 and Aubrey Joens contributing 12 points on 4-8 shooting from beyond the arc.

When you combine that sort of offensive capability with the type of defense the Cyclones played agains the Sooners tonight, you begin to see why this is a team tied atop the Big 12 and ranked sixth in the country.

Holding the opponent 18 points below their season average of 85 points-per-game, it was an impressive showing from a defensive unit that has become reliable.

“It starts with Lex, obviously,” Fennelly said. “But I think our team defense has gotten better. We did a much better job of keeping the ball in front of us and making them hit some thought shots. We try really hard not to foul people. We’ve never figured out how to guard the free throw line, so we don’t want to foul you.”

End-of-quarter brilliance

A first quarter buzzer-beater from Ashley that looked like Christian Laettner in 1992. A third quarter buzzer-beating layup where Nyamer Diew had to take off from the free-throw line to get the shot off.

Iowa State has had a knack for these types of plays all season, and it turns out it’s not just a coincidence.

“We spend a lot of time on end-of-quarter situations,” Fennelly said. “I wish I could say we’ve practiced that shot that [Nyamer] made. That’s one of the best shots I’ve ever seen in this building, male or female. She didn’t even smile. Like come on, smile!”

Fennelly also said that the team has three-second plays that they practice so much the players complain that they’ll never use it.

Basically, the team treats basketball like football. There are three facets to the game, and the Cyclones want to dominate each one of them.

“You all know I love football, and there’s offense, defense and special teams,” Fennelly said. “We work really hard on special teams.”

Being able to convert those momentum plays that get the crowd going at the end of the quarter has helped give energy to the team before going out for the next 10 minutes.

Tonight, Iowa State’s special teams was truly special.

Special nights for Donarski and Joens

After being held scoreless against Texas on Wednesday, Donarski was motivated to come out and get back to her scoring ways.

Scoring 14 points, with four big three-pointers making up the majority of her production, Donarski bounced back in a significant way for the Cyclones.

Something she didn’t need to bounce back from was her defensive effort. 

Talking about how much pride she takes in her defense, Donarski made it clear that she always wants the assignment of taking on the other team’s best guard.

The assignment today was Taylor Robertson, who is one of the best three-point shooters in the nation.

Leading the nation in made threes and sitting at sixth in the country in three-point percentage, Robertson was held to just five points, shooting 1-3 from beyond the arc and struggling to get any sort of rhythm going.

For Donarski, being able to get back to normal on offense and continue her great play on defense made for an enjoyable night.

“It felt good,” Donarski said. “We had a great team game tonight, a great team win. Everyone was involved, we were super unselfish. It was a lot of fun out there.”

Ashley Joens, now the all-time leading scorer in Iowa State history, was honored during the men’s basketball game earlier today before being honored once again before the starting lineups were announced Saturday night.

A video documenting Ashley’s journey to 2,150 points played on the big screen, and the crowd showed appreciation to the senior at the conclusion of it.

“I mean it was a great film, so whoever made it did an amazing job on it,” Joens said. “You kinda think back to when it all began, and all the teammates I’ve had over the last four years. I couldn’t do it without all of them.”

Scoring 28 points and grabbing nine rebounds, it was yet another instance of the Cyclones’ star rising to the occasion in an important matchup.

Fennelly believes that Ashley is more relaxed now that the record is in the past, as it can begin to weigh heavy on you.

Commenting on Ashley’s typically stoic approach when it comes to individual accomplishments, he also talked about how much she thinks she will appreciate this moment, even if it’s in private.

“She won’t say anything about it, that’s just not her personality, but I think when she goes back to her apartment she’ll smile and think: ‘this day was pretty damn fun’,” Fennelly said.