Three Big Takeaways: Cyclones unable to make up for missing production against Texas


Lexi Donarski shoots a three-pointer against No. 15 Texas on Jan. 19.

Aaron Hickman

AMES — The uphill battle began Wednesday afternoon for No. 7 Iowa State women’s basketball, with news breaking that Ashley and Aubrey Joens would be unable to play against No. 15 Texas due to COVID-related issues.

Suffering from a significant loss of production and leadership, the Cyclones looked like a team searching for an identity from the opening tip to the final buzzer, resulting in their second loss of the season by a score of 66-48.

Marred by cold shooting, uncharacteristic turnovers and difficulty handling the Longhorns’ interior defense, it was a game to watch the film and move on from while hoping the Joens sisters will return to the lineup against Baylor on Sunday.

A task too tall

Iowa State was as cool as the other side of the pillow against Texas, and not in a good way.

The Cyclones shot 28 percent from the floor — a season low. That statistic looks even worse up against the Longhorns’ shooting percentage, which was at a solid 44 percent.

On top of that, the Cyclones mustered just 48 points. Their previous season low came against LSU at an even 60.

The team has had its fair share of rough quarters this season, but missing someone who draws a significant amount of attention like Ashley and someone who sharp-shoots and crashes the boards like Aubrey made it that much harder to right the ship.

Maggie Espenmiller-Mcgraw and Beatriz Jordão moved into the starting lineup for the absent Joens sisters. They combined for two points on 1-6 shooting. The two points came from Espenmiller-McGraw.

Nyamer Diew and Maggie Vick also played over 15 minutes each, and they combined for five points on 1-7 shooting.

Missing one of the best players in the country is as good an excuse as you’re going to get.

However, two of the key starters all season for Iowa State put up solid numbers, as Emily Ryan scored 19 points and Lexi Donarski scored 14.

The lack of production outside of the Cyclones’ two main guards was the most frustrating aspect of the game for Iowa State head coach Bill Fennelly.

“We had a lot of minutes without a lot of production,” Fennelly said. “I don’t care if it’s Texas. I don’t care who it is. You don’t win at this level with two people, and I think that was the disappointing thing for me. We couldn’t find anyone else that could score.”

Ryan and Donarski’s play lead the way

Two players had to be completely on point if Iowa State was going to have any chance against Texas: Emily Ryan and Lexi Donarski.

With Texas locking down the interior, Ryan and Donarski probed the perimeter all game searching for answers. That led to some big made shots, but it often led to costly turnovers that ended any momentum the team was starting to build.

Ryan, who has been towards or at the top of the assist leaderboards all season, turned the ball over seven times while dishing out four assists.

Texas scored 15 points off of turnovers, and many of those points were momentum shifters. One instance came early in the second quarter. After a Diew three tied the game at 18, the Longhorns went on a 4-0 run almost immediately off of two Iowa State turnovers.

Before the buzzer sounded at Hilton Coliseum, Donarski and Ryan were subbed out for a final time. And Fennelly knew what he had to tell them as they walked off the floor.

“I know our fans are the smartest fans in the country, and I wanted them to thank those two for the way they played and they did,” Fennelly said. “I just told them I was proud of their effort. Obviously there were some things that they couldn’t control, but I thought they both played their guts out.”

No answers inside

With Espenmiller-McGraw and Jordão moving into the starting lineup, it meant that Morgan Kane and Jordão would start a game on the floor together.

But it was DeYona Gaston and Latasha Lattimore of Texas who made a difference on the inside. Combining for all seven of the Longhorns’ blocks and forcing the Cyclones to go up for contorted layups all night, they controlled the paint and forced Iowa State to spend a lot of time dribbling around the perimeter.

Kane scored five points on 2-5 shooting while Jordão only attempted one shot and didn’t score. The duo also combined for eight rebounds.

A lot of what Iowa State does in their interior offense relies on the pressure that Ashley puts on the defense. That opens things up for drives from other players, as well, and it gives Kane and Jordão a lot of easy looks whether it’s assisted or off of a second chance.

Without that aspect of their offense, the Cyclones only scored 12 interior points and four second chance points.

Defensively for Iowa State, Gaston and Lattimore were allowed to score 20 combined points on a very efficient 8-12 shooting night.

“I thought our bigs were effective early in altering and blocking shots,” Texas Head Coach Vic Schaefer said. “We executed some good stuff in the first half for [DeYona], she finished inside and did a great job. Our guards did a great job of getting her the ball.”