Iowa State to open season against Southern

Iowa State then-freshman guard Ashley Joens guards Baylor then-fifth year guard Chloe Jackson following a turnover during the fourth quarter of the Iowa State vs Baylor women’s basketball game Feb. 23 in Hilton Coliseum. The Lady Bears defeated the Cyclones 60-73 despite a surge from Iowa State in the second half.

Jack Shover

Iowa State will take on Southern University in the team’s season opener Thursday.

The two teams will tip off at 6:30 p.m. in Hilton Coliseum.

Aside from having major voids to fill from departed players, the Cyclones are beginning the season with several injuries to top players. Even so, the Cyclones don’t anticipate any issues dispatching SWAC opponent Southern.

With the graduation of Bridget Carleton and Alexa Middleton last season, the Cyclones lost loads of offensive volume.

With Middleton gone at point guard, the Cyclones will feature a point-guard-by-committee approach, with Rae Johnson, Jade Thurmon, Nia Washington and Maggie Espenmiller-Mcgraw, according to coach Bill Fennelly.

For the opening starting lineup, the Cyclones will be starting Johnson, Madi Wise, Adriana Camber, Ashley Joens and Ines Nezerwa or Kristin Scott.

In addition to Johnson sliding into the starting lineup from last season, Camber will also be moving into the starting lineup. Wise, Joens and Scott all started last season, but Scott has only been practicing since Tuesday due to a back problem, which has persisted since this summer.

If Scott is unable to play, it will be backup forward Nezerwa playing in her stead.

During the Cyclones’ exhibition game last week, Nezerwa finished the game with four fouls despite splitting time with Maddie Frederick, a redshirt freshman, at forward.

Nezerwa struggled with personal fouls last season, and if she picks up several quick fouls, the Cyclones would be stretched thin at post.

While Nezerwa is able to produce points around the rim, she doesn’t provide the same scoring potential as Scott, who is a Preseason Second Team All-Big 12 selection.

“We’re losing one of our best shooters,” Camber said. “Ines, great player, but she doesn’t have the three-point capability that Kristin has, so we can’t stretch the floor as much.”

Both Camber and Joens said they will be asked to step in to play forward for the Cyclones.

Camber said the biggest difficulty playing the floor, outside of rebounding and guarding taller players, is her lack of experience playing the position and knowing where to be on the court.

Like Scott, Joens has also been dealing with an injury early in the season, and she missed four days due to a sore ankle. However, Joens isn’t expected to miss significant time due to the injury.

With Carleton gone, Joens figures to be the natural successor to Carleton’s scoring capacity, and Fennelly said the two players’ numbers during their freshman years are eerily similar.

Joens led all scorers with 19 points during the Cyclones’ exhibition, and aside from offensive growth, Joens said she has experienced growth on the defensive end of the court.

“Being quicker and stronger, being able to stay in front of the girl I’m guarding — so just overall developing my game in all areas has been huge,” Joens said.

Iowa State will have plenty of talent to add the first win of the season against Southern, a team that went 21-12 last season.

When looking at Southern’s offense last season, no player averaged 10 or more points last season and they shot 28.7 percent from three.

While a scoring-by-committee offense may work in the Southwestern Athletic Conference, Southern will have a tough time knocking off Iowa State at Hilton Coliseum.