Cyclones stumble in fourth, lose fourth straight

Junior Bridget Carlton making her way into Wildcat territory during their game against Kansas State on Jan. 10 at the Hilton Coliseum.

Noah Rohlfing

Hilton Coliseum became the Dunder Mifflin Paper Company for two hours on Wednesday night, and just like the love story of Jim and Pam, Iowa State’s performance against Kansas State certainly had its ups and downs.

After leading by 10, Iowa State failed to close out the Wildcats in a 67-60 loss on “The Office” night and ended the game spiraling towards a lost season. It was a fourth straight Big 12 defeat, and one that left a sour taste in the mouth of Coach Bill Fennelly and his players.

Fennelly didn’t sugarcoat the team’s fourth-quarter efforts in his postgame presser.

“Defensively in the fourth quarter, we were nonexistent,” Fennelly said. “Our attention to detail was awful.”

It had started out well for Iowa State, with the Cyclones hitting five 3-pointers in the first quarter alone (they went 3-for-15 from behind the arc the rest of the night). The Cyclones led 19-18 after one, and that first quarter performance prompted a huge moment in the game.

Kansas State’s vaunted use of zone defenses was supposed to be a big obstacle for Iowa State to overcome. But after the Cyclones’ 46.7 percent shooting in the first quarter, Wildcats coach Jeff Mittie chose to change course.

“They were really killing us in transition and hitting that corner three early, so we decided to man up on them more,” Mittie said. “It seemed to slow them down a little bit.”

The impact was clear. Iowa State never shot better than 35.3 percent in any quarter after the Wildcats manned up, and in the second half the Cyclones went a woeful 11-for-33 from the floor. Junior star guard Bridget Carleton still had 16 points and 11 rebounds, her ninth career double-double, but she was 5-for-15 from the floor and looked fatigued in the second half.

Carleton explained how Kansas State’s shift in defensive mindset caught the Cyclones off-guard.

“We were ready for their 2-3 zone and we didn’t adjust well at all [to their man],” Carleton said.

Carleton, who has made a habit of picking up clutch points in bunches, only had three points in the final frame.

In fact, the only second-half bright spot for the Cyclones was the play of junior forward Bride Kennedy-Hopoate’s performance. She had 17 points in 16 minutes on 7-for-8 shooting.

The Aussie had 11 points in the fourth and scored the Cyclones’ final nine. Combined with the early scoring spurt of junior forward Meredith Burkhall, Iowa State finally got post production against the Wildcats’ frontline.

Kennedy-Hopoate knew she had to be aggressive and take control after halftime.

“I just felt like someone needed to step up,” Kennedy-Hopoate said. “I knew that I could do something in the post.”

A defensive performance that saw Kansas State shoot 1-for-16 in the third quarter left the Cyclones up 45-38, but the momentum had already shifted towards the Wildcats.

From the 1:41 mark in the third quarter to the final buzzer, Iowa State was outscored 35-18. Kansas State got whatever it wanted in the final 10 minutes, hitting 4-of-5 3-pointers and flipping the game on its head.

The Cyclones looked stunned by the Wildcats’ flurry of baskets as shot after shot rippled the nets and their lead vanished into the damp January night.

The final 26 seconds ran off without incident after a desperate Madison Wise three clanked off the back rim. After coming so close to knocking off then-No.12 West Virginia in Morgantown just a few days ago, a must-win game had slipped through their grasp yet again.