Cyclones win big over Nicholls State despite uneven performance

Members of the Iowa State Basketball Team play defense during the Iowa State Vs UC Riverside basketball game Dec 17. The Cyclones Defeated Riverside 89-66

Noah Rohlfing

With a week-long break lurking, the Iowa State women’s basketball team seemed at times like it was already walking out the door.

Perhaps that’s why, despite a 75-47 win over Nicholls State on Thursday afternoon, the Cyclones and fans were very subdued. The crowd was at its loudest when trying to help a little girl find a gift while blindfolded following the first quarter (she walked in a circle around the present and didn’t find it, much to the dismay of the 9,466 people in attendance).

The Cyclones were sloppy with the ball in the first half, struggling to break a tight Nicholls State press and getting called for three traveling violations by the halftime whistle. After stretching their lead to 27-13 with 7:13 left in the first half, the Colonels went on a 10-0 run and got within four.

Coach Bill Fennelly was not happy with the team’s second quarter performance.

“We were very sloppy with the ball at times,” Fennelly said. “Some of it was good Nicholls State defense and some of it was bad fundamental basketball by Iowa State.

“Those are the things we have to coach better.”

Bride Kennedy-Hopoate continued her run of solid performances and led the Cyclones in scoring at the break with nine points on 1-of-5 shooting and a 8-for-8 performance on free throws. Her lone made field goal was an important 3-pointer from the corner with only seconds left in the half, which gave the Cyclones some much-needed breathing room at 35-27.

With the second half brought a run that the Cyclones sorely needed to get out of second gear and put the Colonels away. Sparked by two straight triples from freshman guard Madison Wise, the Cyclones turned a 42-31 scoreline with 6:20 left into a 64-33 blowout by the end of the third quarter.

Wise was the Cyclones’ leading scorer for the second straight game, with 18 points on 6-of-8 shooting. Heading into the Big 12 season, the Cyclones will need to have Wise and other newcomers continue to step up. Thursday also marked a second-straight poor shooting performance from junior guard Bridget Carleton, as she went 5-for-15 from the floor and finished with 10 points and six assists. Senior guard Emily Durr contributed 14 points and five assists of her own.

Wise credits her teammates’ trust with her success the past three games.

“My teammates and coaches have a lot of confidence in me,” Wise said. “It’s starting to click.”

The Iowa State defense was at full power in the second half, as Nicholls state only scored 20 points in the final 20 minutes and shot 17-for-60 overall. The Cyclones forced 20 turnovers, marking the third straight game the Iowa State defense has forced 18 or more turnovers. For a defense that, Fennelly admits, doesn’t normally force takeaways, it’s a surprising trend. 

After a clinical third quarter, Iowa State’s sloppy play returned in the fourth, with turnovers piling up and Fennelly looking a mix of frustrated and bewildered on the sidelines. Turnovers have been a big concern for Iowa State so far this season, and the Cyclones took a step back on Thursday with 19 giveaways.

Fennelly warns that turnovers have to be limited for the Cyclones to have success in the Big 12.

“You can’t turn the ball over 19 times in the Big 12 and have a chance to win,” Fennelly said. “You get that number to 12 or 13, that’s six more shots.”

The Cyclones now have a week to iron out those issues before Kansas comes to town. For Iowa State, the business end of the season has officially arrived.