Three Takeaways: Carleton’s struggles, youth movement, a late run

Junior Bridget Carleton making her way into Bears territory during the game against Baylor at the Hilton Coliseum on Jan. 17.

Noah Rohlfing

The brutality of this year’s Big 12 conference is taking its toll on the Cyclones.

After a 69-59 loss to the No. 17 West Virginia Mountaineers, Iowa State sits at 8-11 on the year and 2-6 in the Big 12. The Cyclones have lost six of seven and are 0-4 against ranked teams this season.

Here are the three takeaways from Saturday night’s game in Hilton.

Carleton struggles

Bridget Carleton will be glad to be rid of West Virginia until next season.

Iowa State’s star guard had another rough outing against the Mountaineers, scoring just 11 points on 4-for-14 shooting, two weeks after going 5-for-22 from the floor in Morgantown, West Virginia.

The first half was particularly brutal for Carleton. West Virginia’s Naomi Davenport spent most of the first 20 minutes guarding Carleton, and she effectively took the junior from Chatham, Ontario, Canada, out of the game. Carleton was 1-for-6 from the floor in the first half, scoring only two points and turning the ball over three times as well.

Senior guard Emily Durr had to pick up the scoring load, leading the Cyclones with 15 points on 5-for-16 shooting. Without Carleton performing at her best, the Cyclones look out of sync and without a real plan offensively when the initial action breaks down. Carleton’s ability to improvise and score from anywhere is vital to the success of this Iowa State team.

Carleton commented on Iowa State’s offensive struggles in the post-game presser.

“We just have to continue to get good looks,” Carleton said. “I think sometimes we get stagnant and don’t really know what to do.”

For Iowa State to pick up wins and build momentum heading into next season, Carleton is going to have to get her mojo back.

Freshmen start

For the first time all season long, Iowa State went all in on its freshmen. Rae Johnson, Kristin Scott, and Madison Wise all got the nod. It was a bold step for coach Bill Fennelly, and perhaps a hint that this season’s Cyclones team is producing with one eye firmly looking towards the future.

Fennelly said that it was important to give the team’s young players opportunities to show what they can do.

“Obviously we’re trying to win games,” Fennelly said. “Unfortunately, they’re learning on the job.”

Durr, who ended up starting in the second half (Wise was the only freshman on the court at the start of the second 20 minutes), didn’t start when healthy for the first time all season, leaving the door open for Johnson to assume point guard duties.

While Johnson didn’t light up the scoreboard (she had six points in 18 minutes of action), trusting her with a starting spot against a ranked opponent is indicative of Fennelly’s growing trust in the Albertville, Minnesota, native.

Durr was impressed by Johnson’s control of the point guard position and the progress the freshmen have made.

“I thought [Johnson] did a pretty good job,” Durr said. “It’s always nice to have experience for them, especially in Big 12 games.”

Scott, making her fourth start of the season, played 17 minutes in the first half, scoring four points and grabbing four boards. In the second half, Scott arrived late to the bench and didn’t play at all. According to Fennelly, Scott suffered a head injury towards the end of the first half and was being evaluated for a concussion.

If Scott is forced to miss time heading into another busy week of games, Iowa State will miss her rebounding presence. Scott is second on the team in rebounding, averaging 6.7 boards per contest.

Madison Wise struggled to score early on but managed to get seven points on 2-for-7 shooting, grabbing five rebounds and adding one assist in 26 minutes of action. Wise has been a consistent starter in Big 12 play and despite a rough two-game stretch, there’s no indication that Wise will lose her spot.

Tonight’s starting five makes it clear that the future of Iowa State women’s basketball is coming into focus.

Still showing fight

Iowa State was dead to rights late in the third quarter.

The Cyclones trailed by as much as 21 points and looked lost on the offensive end of the floor. Teana Muldrow was making the Cyclones’ defense see ghosts, scoring all 27 of her points in the first three quarters and terrorizing any defender she faced. Muldrow scored 41 total points against the Cyclones this year. After three, Iowa State was down 58-41 and staring into the abyss.

Fennelly said the Cyclones were “manhandled” by the physical Mountaineers on both sides of the ball.

Slowly but surely, however, Iowa State eked its way back into the game as the fourth quarter progressed. Carleton had eight points in a four-minute stretch, Johnson and sophomore guard Nia Washington both hit 3-pointers late, and with 33.5 seconds to play the Cyclones were only down 66-59.

The Cyclones forced West Virginia to turn the ball over seven times in the final frame and held the Mountaineers to just 25 percent shooting.

Carleton said that that the fans pushed the Cyclones to make their late run.

“They deserve [to have us] play as hard as we can and as well as we can,” Carleton said.

Even with the Cyclones’ season quickly becoming more about the future of the program and development rather than reaching the NCAA Tournament, the Cyclones put a scare into the Mountaineers and showed their upcoming opponents that they still have some fight left in the tank.