AMES, IOWA — The quiet and sometimes emotionless persona does little to give off the true competitive side of Seanna Johnson, who has proven to be anything but passive on the hardwood.
She is motivated by a slight that left her name off the preseason All-Big 12 lists, but mostly she is motivated by winning as was evidence Friday as her fourth quarter takeover ultimately led Iowa State to a 69-66 win against No. 23 Iowa.
“I just wanted to win,” Johnson said plainly afterward. “Winning this game is a milestone for all of us. I know we didn’t want to lose, so whatever I had to do for us to win I was going to do it. If that was me making shots or getting rebounds, I’d do it just to help my teammates.”
Johnson did some of both in the upset victory.
A back-and-forth first quarter eventually turned into an 11-point Iowa lead midway through the third quarter and settled at 10 with 2.6 seconds remaining in the third and Kidd Blaskowsky standing out of bounds on the baseline.
The Cyclones had their play.
“It’s the last thing we do at shootaround,” coach Bill Fennelly said. “We call it the “three-second play” — real brilliant play call.”
When Fennelly calls for the play at the end of shootaround each day his players groan, and Blaskowsky rarely, if ever, showcases it come gametime. Now was the chance. She heaved the ball the length of the court to a wide-open Meredith Burkhall, who turned and scored to end the quarter.
“First thing was catch the ball,” Burkhall said. “Then turn around and shoot it."
“Kidd’s got as good a arm as any quarterback or any baseball player I’ve ever seen,” Fennelly added. “The throw was great. The catch was great. Mere was so open I thought she was just going to panic a little bit. But it was a big play."
The play brought a crowd of 11,373 to its feet and life to the Cyclones, who spent the mid-quarter break talking not about basketball but about winning.
“Coach talked about if you want to win you’re going to win,” Johnson said. “I think as a whole we got in the huddle, we said, ‘If you have to be dragged up the tunnel after the game that’s what we’re going to do, but give it your all.’”
Blaskowsky’s pass and Burkhall’s bucket started what would become an 11-1 run by the midway point of the fourth quarter, when Iowa State took a 57-55 lead. The two side traded baskets until Iowa State led 62-61 with 3:14 to play.
From there, it was the Seanna Johnson Show.
Johnson hit a layup to build the lead to three on one possession and completed and an-one on the next to make it five. When the Hawkeyes closed back within one with two of their own shots, Johnson hit the two game-sealing free throws.
Iowa State’s last seven points came from Johnson, who scored 11 of her 22 points and grabbed five of her 10 rebounds in the fourth quarter, where the Cyclones outscored the Hawkeyes 23-12 to complete the upset.
“I really just think Seanna Johnson, she really just took this game over,” Iowa coach Lisa Bluder said. “She took it upon herself.”
Quietly and efficiently, once again.
“She’s ultra competitive and I think sometimes people kind of don’t see that in her because of her personality,” Fennelly said. “But she loves to win.”