The Drive with Heather Burnside and Sean Roberts

The Drive with Heather Burnside and Sean Roberts

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Iowa State WBB: Cyclones stall out in final minutes falling to the Hawkeyes

Ames, IA –The back-and-forth electric matchup between the Iowa State Cyclones (4-4) and the No. 4 Iowa Hawkeyes (9-1) boiled down to one thing, experience. Iowa, a team that was playing in the National Championship last April, never faltered even when Hilton Coliseum was at full strength. Iowa State was a different story. Bill Fennelly’s group played their best basketball collectively for 35 minutes but struggled beyond the arc and long momentum-killing scoring droughts ultimately put the nail in the coffin for the young Cyclones. Iowa grabbed ahold of the lead in the final minutes and took down Iowa State 67-58 Wednesday night.

Going into the anticipated rivalry matchup, the key to success would rely on slowing down the nation's best player Caitlin Clark. Something Fennelly has been adamant that no one can do. Just when you thought the accolades could not get any higher for Clark, she proves everyone wrong. In her 110th career start, Clark became the first player in both men's and women's Division I basketball to record at least 3,000 points, 750 rebounds, and 750 assists. She finished the night with 35 points on 6-16 shooting from beyond the arc. Clark also notched in a personal goal of winning in Hilton.

“Whether I am back in an Iowa uniform next year or not I am not coming back here ever again, so this was my last chance,” Clark said.

It was a physical and at times sloppy game that favored the Cyclones who were intentionally trying to slow down the pace of the game especially knowing who they were faced with across half-court.

“I could not be more proud of how hard we played, the way they played, and the way they did things we asked them to do,” Fennelly said. “Coming into this game I hinted to them that [Iowa] better get us now.”

Iowa State showcased their ability to hang with some of the best with their ability to respond to whatever the Hawkeyes threw at them. The Cyclones ignited onto the court coming out of the first quarter making four of their first five shots and finally found some rhythm from beyond the arc. With many raised eyebrows, the first half ended with a 34-34 tie.

Both coach Lisa Bluder and Clark had mentioned in the postgame conference that this was not a pretty game for an offense that averages almost 92 points per game. Iowa shot just 9-31 from three-point range with only Clark and Kate Martin making more than one three. The Hawkeyes had their fair share of cold shooting streaks with a strong defensive showing from the Cyclones. Iowa State just did the one thing they could not afford to do when Iowa is not playing at full potential and that is going on a scoring drought themselves.

No drought was more defeating than in the final four minutes. Moments after the Cyclones snapped a 3-minute scoreless streak with an 8-0 run capped off with a Hannah Belanger baseline jumper that gave Iowa State the lead, the magic had worn off. The experienced Hawkeyes did not waiver in the hostile environment, instead, they adjusted and held the Cyclones scoreless for the final 4:30 minutes. The sloppy inbound turnovers, two of them, and the fact that Iowa State did not make a single three in the entire second was just too much for the young Cyclones to overcome.  

While coach Fennelly will not take moral victories, most fans walked out of Hilton with a positive outlook toward the future of this team. Combining for 29 points and 22 rebounds, freshman standouts Audi Crooks (team-high 15 points) and Abby Brown (14 points) commanded the attention of the Hawkeye defense.

“I think coming into this a lot of people thought we were going to roll over and die,” Crooks said. “We showed a lot of tenacity and a lot of fight, and we competed and with four minutes left we were up, so I think we learned that when we collectively play together and are cohesive, we are a phenomenal team.”

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