Tepid offensive performance dooms Cyclones to defeat in Cedar Falls


Jack MacDonald/Iowa State Daily

Junior guard Bridget Carleton brings the ball up during the Cyclones’ 57-53 los to Northern Iowa. 

Noah Rohlfing

The crowd at the McLeod Center was a show-stopping one, which is fitting, because the Iowa State women’s basketball team never really got started Tuesday night. 

On a brisk Iowa night, the rivalry between Iowa State and Northern Iowa was renewed to a rowdy fanfare, especially in the UNI student section. Chants and boos galore filled the arena with tension, and the ensuing game was a battle built on attrition, not baskets.

Five minutes into the game and the Cyclones were up 8-4, but coaches Bill and Billy Fennelly were already stark raving mad. The Cyclones allowed three offensive rebounds in one possession, and that set the tone for the evening. In a game that was ugly from the opening tip, the Panthers always seemed to be one step ahead of Iowa State.

The Panthers muddied up the game and forced three jump balls before the end of the first quarter. 

The first half was a rough one for Iowa State in the ball movement department. The Cyclones managed only two assists and turned the ball over 10 times. When a basketball team has a turnover-to-assist ratio of 5:1 in 20 minutes of play, the game is bound to either be a low scoring affair or a blowout.

The Cyclones went 9-for-26 in the first half, a paltry 34.6 percent. The Cyclones defense kept them in the game, and they held the Panthers to 37.5 percent from the floor on the night.

Junior guard/forward Bridget Carleton was the Cyclones’ only scorer in double figures with 18 points on 14 shots.

Junior forward Meredith Burkhall said that the Panthers’ physical defense was no surprise to the Cyclones.

“We knew they were gonna come out aggressive,” Burkhall said. “We just needed to do more things on offense.”

“They were aggressive,” Carleton added.

Trailing at halftime 28-23, the Cyclones continued to have offensive struggles when the second half got underway. 

After drawing within one at 31-30, the Cyclones went nearly four minutes without a made basket and allowed the Panther lead to balloon to six. Through three quarters Iowa State could only muster five assists while turning the ball over 12 times. The offensive cohesion that was present against South Dakota had vanished.

Fennelly rued missed opportunities, but gave the Panthers defense credit.

“We missed some shots we need to make,” Fennelly said. “They [Northern Iowa] make you play both ends of the floor and they’re always well prepared.”

Continuing to sputter offensively, the Cyclones’ 2-3 zone defense felt the pressure rise. For every Cyclone basket, the Panthers would counter-punch with one of their own to keep the crowd in the game and put the Cyclones on their heels.

Kennedy Kirkpatrick was the main threat for the Panthers throughout the game, scoring 17 points and shooting 6-for-11 from the floor.

With about eight minutes to play, the dam began to break and Northern Iowa stretched its lead to nine points. Down 49-40, Iowa Sate needed to find an offensive fluidity that had been missing since the opening tip. 

Junior forward Bridget Carleton tried to spark a rally with four straight points to bring the Cyclones within three, and the Cyclones found themselves with a chance to tie or win the game, down 55-53 with 10.7 seconds on the clock. 

Carleton described the Cyclones’ last play. 

“I got the ball at the top of the key,” Carleton said. “I just tried to attack and get something going to the rim.”

In a microcosm of Iowa State’s tough Tuesday night, Carleton’s layup rimmed out and gave UNI the victory.