Iowa State’s defense was up to the task against Iowa, but its offense wasn’t


Freshman Guard Rae Johnson looks for an open pass during the Iowa State vs Iowa Basketball game Dec. 6. the Hawkeyes defeated the cyclones 55-61. 

Garrett Kroeger

For the first time since 1989, the Iowa State women’s basketball team was on the wrong side of history.

Before the Cyclones welcomed in-state rival Iowa into Hilton Coliseum on Wednesday night, nearly three decades went by since Iowa defeated Iowa State in Ames. But that streak came to the end as the cardinal and gold suffered their third straight close loss, as they were defeated 61-55 by the Hawkeyes.

“Ya, it’s tough,” said junior Bridget Carleton “I think we did a nice job on the defensive end today, much better than we have been.”

Coming into the match-up, coach Bill Fennelly knew his team had to play on a whole different level when it took the court against Iowa. And defensively, it did.

On the night Iowa State held a typical quality shooting Hawkeye team to a 37.9 field goal percentage, which was their worst shooting performances of the season. But it was the Cyclones’ defense on opposing forward Megan Gustafson.

In Fennelly’s mind, Gustafson is an All-American type of player for Iowa. Heading into the game, she was averaging 22.3 points per game. But on Wednesday, she only scored 16 points, which was one of her lowest outputs of the year.

“[Gustafson] is eerily efficient,” Fennelly said. “I thought we defended her really well and she still had 16 points. She only had two at halftime and that was on a putback. In the second half, I thought when Bride [Kennedy-Hopoate] went out of the game, we really had some trouble.”

All night long Kennedy-Hopoate and Gustafson were in a blue-collar battle. They would each throw an elbow into one another’s back down low in the post to try establish a physical presences.

Now, Gustafson was the best bigs the Cyclones have seen so far this year. And for a JUCO transfer like Kennedy-Hopoate to be that efficient like that should be seen as a positive because the Big 12 is full of dominant post players.

“I wasn’t afraid of the challenge,” Kennedy-Hopoate said. “I wanted to shut her down. I knew she had really good sets. I think I did pretty well on her, but collectively as a group, we missed little things. Boxing out consistently and she was getting rebounds and putting them in.”

While Iowa State’s defense was up for the challenge, its offense wasn’t.

Basketball is a game of shooters and makers. Against the Hawkeyes, the Cyclones were shooters but not makers as they shot a mere 29.5 percent.

“When you shoot 29 percent, I don’t care who you are playing against, especially a quality opponent, you are not going to win,” Fennelly said.

Now, the shots Iowa State took against Iowa weren’t all bad shots. In the final 30 seconds of the game when the Cyclones had a chance to tie the game at 58 apiece, the cardinal and gold took three quality 3-pointers but all of them rimmed out or hit the back of the rim.

“I thought we had good looks at the basket,” Fennelly said. “I think there were two or three times, I know, we took the ball to the basket on a lay up and they look like they were, I mean, one, two of them were right in front of our bench and you can here [Iowa] say let her go and we missed them. So, in the end of the game, we had three good looks at it.”

When no one is hitting shots, like almost everyone on Iowa State’s roster, no one wants to shoot because it’s not their night. And that caught up to the Cyclones.

Iowa State’s top two leaders, Carleton and Emily Durr, were a combined 5-of-22 from the court. Durr only tallied five points while Carleton led the way with 17. However, 11 of her points came from the free throw line.

“We weren’t able to cover it on offense,” Carleton said. “We didn’t shoot very well. I didn’t shoot very well from the field. So, that hurt us.”

Although the Cyclones’ suffered their first loss to the Hawkeyes in 28 years at Hilton Coliseum, Fennelly was incredibly proud of his team’s effort. Coming in, he thought Iowa was the clear cut better team. But on Wednesday night in Hilton, his young team showed heart and grit against a tough opponent.

“I thought our kids really competed,” Fennelly said. “I have no problem with their effort. I have no problem with what they tried to do. I thought defensively we couldn’t play much better.”

“Disappointed that their effort was not rewarded, but proud of how they competed.”