The most anticipated matchup of the young season ended up being just another game for the No. 17 Cyclones, who defeated the No. 21 Iowa, 83-70, Thursday at Hilton Coliseum.
Iowa State women's head coach Bill Fennelly moved to 9-0 against the Hawkeyes at Hilton and was helped Thursday night by over 11,500 fans.
"It's awesome," senior Hallie Christofferson said. "I'm so proud of my teammates for getting this win for our seniors and these fans. It's such a big game for us and [for the state of] Iowa too. To come out here and play like we did, it leaves a good spirit in our minds just going into Christmas break."
The Cyclones trailed 6-8 early in the first half before junior guard Brynn Williamson hit her first of five three-pointers sparking an 13-0 run over four minutes to take the lead and never look back. The Hawkeyes came into the game averaging 85 points per game, and had only 28 at the break.
"Coach talked about today not passing up shots," Williamson said. " It's one of those things that if I miss the first one I have to think every shot [after] is going to go in. During shoot around I stayed a little after and got some additional shots in. Once the first one went in, and then the next one and the next one I thought [to myself] that the team was going to get me open shots on the night."
Turnovers plagued Iowa from the beginning as the Cyclones (9-0) forced six Iowa turnovers within the first eight minutes and 13 by the half.
"I think we let the crowd rattle us a little bit," Iowa coach Lisa Bluder said. "We had more traveling calls in the first five minutes than we'd had all year. Iowa State played a great game. Williamson was outstanding shooting the three in the first half. They did a great job of crashing the offensive boards and getting second opportunities."
Williamson's 15 points at the half were a big story, but equally as much was Iowa's leading scorer Melissa Dixon having played on 11 minutes with two quick fouls in the game.
"That hurt us quite a bit," Bluder said. "She scored 100 points over the last four games, so we kind of wanted to have her on the floor. That definitely hurt us."
The Cyclones carried a 13-point lead heading into the locker room at the half and built that lead as high as 21 points at one point during the second half. It seemed as though anytime the Cyclones wanted to dribble penetrate into the lane, they could, which caused the defense to collapse and freshmen guard Jadda Buckley made them pay by finding the open shooter.
"We've been trying to get Jadda more aggressive and not just stand around watching," Cyclone head coach Bill Fennelly said after the game. "In a weird way, when Nikki got into foul trouble Jadda had to have the ball and they couldn't stay in front of her. That was the plan we know that when their guards are bigger than our guards we worried on defense but on offense we really felt like we could attack them off the bounce, and I thought we did that."
Added Williamson: "It's good [Jadda was able to penetrate] because she didn't start the season like that. She was hesitant in the beginning of the season and we told her as players that she's played that [up tempo] style her whole life. She does such a good job at not only finding us but making things for herself. When people see Hallie they are going to shadow her, they will take away my three point shot, and face guard Nikki. That leaves room Jadda and Seanna to both get those points and they did a great job of that tonight."
As the game was winding down, the Cyclones with a comfortable double digit lead in the final seconds, Fennelly emptied his bench to get his second unit some run.
In a questionable move, Bluder had the Hawkeyes apply a full-court press with less than 40 seconds to go in the game. Two quick turnovers by the Cyclone reserves forced Fennelly to put his starters back in the game."I really don't care what Iowa does at the end of the game," Fennelly said, "but we subbed everybody in. If she wants to leave her starters in that's her business, but I didn't want her trying to embarrass my second team.
"They didn't press hardly at all until we subbed and I'm not going to put those kids out there. My job is to protect our players and if you are going to press my second team then I have to do what I have to do. I don't think it's fair to them. They were excited that we won. We had two turnovers is eight seconds and when I took those kids out I immediately apologized to them on the bench and it was the first thing I said in the locker room."
Upon hearing the news after the game that Fennelly was surprised Iowa began to press on the Cyclone reserves, Bluder commented:
"He can do whatever he wants [by putting his starters back in the game]. That's fine, until the buzzer goes any coach can do what they want to do. That's fine. I didn't realize [my press against his reserves late in the game] was an issue for him. We are trying to do the best until the buzzer ends. That game was over [at that point], and so what you try and do is when you are face in this situation you learn so when we play down the road that we can get better in those situations. Any coach has the opportunity to do anything they want until the buzzer sounds."
"It wasn't for anything our bench did [to cause them to be taken out and replaced by the starters late in the game]," Williamson said. "We weren't going to watch them get pressed full court or have our bench handle the ball full court when they don't even do that in practice. Coach was trying to protect us and not embarrass our girls [on the bench]. It's fun to get everyone in."
The Cyclones ended up dribbling the ball out and won the game by 13. They had a decisive edge in points scored at the foul line, making almost double that of which Iowa had attended. Iowa State shot 29 more free throws that the Hawkeyes, with 23 of those coming in the second half.
Odds and Ends
Iowa State was led by Williams' career-high 21 points, and freshman Seanna Johnson's 16 rebounds. This marks the fourth game in which Johnson has at least 10 rebounds, including the last three contests. Freshmen duo Buckley also tallied a career high 19 points, including 14-for-16 from the charity stripe.
"Defensively I think our team is smart," Fennelly said. "We had a great scouting report. We gap people, we stay in front of you, we will make you shoot jump shots. We aren't going to foul you. To hold Iowa to 28 points at half was really good. We out rebounded them and we don't commit silly fouls and will guard the right people. Defensively I think our kids have bought in to what we are preaching."
Quotes to Note
Fennelly: "We are 9-0 and we beat a great team tonight. We won the state championship which is a great thing and we are very proud of that. It's great for our university. Our kids need a break. We won't play again until after Christmas so it's time for them to enjoy this. I read a couple and showed them some emails I'd received from former players that had played in this game. Every email I got was wishing us luck, wanted to be in this game, and the last thing I told our players was that they remembered playing in this game. Some were kids who played 15 years ago. I said they've got 40 minutes and I thought they did a great job."
Williamson: "As well as we played tonight, we can't think that this is March. This isn't our last game, and as good as our team is, we will have 18 more games like we did tonight. It's a really good start to what we will see in January but from now until we play that next game, we are going to enjoy this one because it feels really good."
Bluder: "It's a great environment.You've got 11,000 people here today. It builds their confidence so much and it becomes a communication problem for your own team. It's a great environment for women's basketball."
Iowa State has a long time off until its next game, Dec. 28 against Holy Cross in Ames.