By Anthony Hanson
AMES – No. 3 seeded Iowa State staved off an upset threat from UT Arlington on its home court Friday evening.
The Sun Belt player of the year Starr Jacobs led the attempt to steal a spot in the NCAA tournament’s round of 32 from the hometown team. Jacobs’ 19 points put UT Arlington in striking distance late. But ultimately, it was Iowa State advancing to the second round for its third straight postseason. Friday’s nightcap ended by a score of 78-71.
Ashley Joens established a new season high for the second consecutive game. This time the senior scored 36 points.
“The definition of survive and advance is what you saw from our team tonight,” Iowa State head coach Bill Fennelly said.
The Cyclones were put on the ropes by a balanced UT Arlington attack. Iowa State found itself down six at halftime after four Mavericks scored seven or more points. Facing elimination, Iowa State needed to respond. Iowa State found its answer in sophomore point guard Emily Ryan.
“She [Ryan] did take over the game,” Fennelly said.
In her third NCAA tournament game, Ryan added 14 points in the second half, including 11 in the fourth quarter. She facilitated the Iowa State attack and effortlessly broke the UT Arlington full court press in crunch time. She connected on two three-point field goals, the second a stepback to put the Cyclones up five with 2:35 to go in the game.
“I was trying to make the right play for our team, whatever that happened to be at the time,” Ryan said postgame.
The stoic Ryan had six assists while never leaving the floor.
The bounce back win for Iowa State came fresh off a loss to Texas at the Big 12 tournament in Kansas City. Joens scored a season high 33 points and grabbed 13 rebounds in the loss to Texas. But the third loss of the year to the Longhorns in overtime wasn’t demoralizing, Joens said.
“It’s a new season really,” Joens said before the matchup with the Lady Mavs.
The Cheryl Miller Award finalist said she’d learn from the Texas loss and move forward. Joens eclipsed the season high set in Kansas City with 36 points against UT Arlington. While shouldering a large offensive load, Joens shot 46.4 percent from the field and grabbed 15 rebounds. Joens played all 40 of the game’s minutes Friday night.
“The games are long,” Joens said. “You’ve got to keep fighting, keep battling and I think we did a really good job of that.”
Joens’ battle in the paint got her fouled nine times. She made only six of her 12 attempts from the charity stripe.
The senior will advance to play one more game in front of the crowd at Hilton Coliseum.
Next, Iowa State faces Georgia in the round of 32. Georgia powered past Dayton Friday evening to reach the second round. The No. 6 seed Bulldogs will battle the Cyclones again from Hilton Coliseum. A trip to the sweet sixteen will be on the line.
“That’s why its madness,” Fennelly said. “Emily Ryan, Ashley Joens and the best fans in the country got us through it.”
By Anthony Hanson