By Ian Smith, CycloneFanatic.com Contributor
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AMES – Bill Fennelly made it perfectly clear. He is not happy with his Iowa State women’s basketball team.
Yes, the Cyclones (3-0) beat Northern Arizona 65-41 on Sunday, but Fennelly didn’t like what he saw.
“We played like we’ve been practicing,” Fennelly said. “We didn’t come to shoot around this morning ready to go. That’s the way we played.
“I think it’s part of a product that I can’t talk like I should. I think part of the product is that we have some young people on this team that don’t get it. They don’t get what it means to wear the uniform. They are going to get it or their not going to be around.
Fortunately for Iowa State, it has two players it can lean on heavily to get through tough times. Both Hallie Christofferson and Chelsea Poppens are playing at a high level. On Sunday, the duo combined for 34 points and 20 rebounds against the Lumberjacks.
“Obviously, they were the two best players in the game tonight. Hallie’s versatility can spread the court. It allows her to shoot the three, and it opens it up for (Poppens) a little bit.”
Christofferson and Poppens put the Cyclones ahead early and left little doubt of the outcome. Both scored inside at will as Iowa State dominated Northern Arizona in points in the paint 32-18.
That’s probably a blueprint for how the Cyclones are going to win this season. Unlike past years, Iowa State struggles to shoot 3-pointers. To score points, Iowa State needs to go to the hoop.
The Cyclones went 6-of-30 from beyond the arc and hit 39.7 percent of their shots Sunday.
“We really wanted to attack the basket because obviously we can’t hit a 3-point shot,” Fennelly said. “We were 3-for-17 at halftime. I’m the not brightest guy, but we just told them not to shoot a three until a post player touches it.”
While the offense is still finding its rhythm, the defense is smothering opponents. After Northern Arizona’s 41-point effort, Iowa State is allowing just 46 points per game this season.
But as Fennelly said, the competition level is only going up. If the Cyclones don’t start playing more consistent basketball, the Big 12 could be rough.
“I don’t think we’ve played up to our abilities,” Christofferson said. “There’s a lot more that we put in and that we can do and we are capable of.”
Player of the game
Chelsea Poppens looked lost in the season opener. Two games later and she might be Iowa State’s most consistent offensive threat.
Poppens scored 18 points and grabbed 11 rebounds to pace the Cyclones on Sunday.
“Since we were running the court, we were open a little easier,” Poppens said.
In the past two games, Poppens is showing a nice touch around the hoop to go with her bruising style. The Aplington native made 7-of-9 shots around and went 4-of-5 from the free throw line on Sunday.
Through three games, Poppens is averaging 14 points per game and 10 rebounds – both team highs.
– The Iowa State coaches wore orange on Sunday in support of Oklahoma State.
– After Sunday’s win, Iowa State is now 26-1 all-time in the month of November under Bill Fennelly.
– Hallie Christofferson notched her first career double-double against Drake. The sophomore finished with 11 points and 11 rebounds. She nearly missed accomplishing the feat on Sunday with 16 points and nine boards.
– Nikki Moody continued to distribute the ball effectively. The freshman racked up nine assists against the Lumberjacks.
– Official attendance for Sunday’s game was 7,335.
– Iowa State outrebounded Northern Arizona 49-28 in the victory.
– The Lumberjacks connected on just 29.2 percent of their shots.
Iowa State is off to the Nugget Classic in Reno during Thanksgiving week. The Cyclones will tip off their first game against Penn State on Friday at 5:15 p.m.
As Fennelly noted, it will take a much better effort to beat the Lady Lions.
“If we play like this, we’ll get beat by 30,” Fennelly said. “Maybe that’s what we need. I don’t know.”
The No. 11-ranked Lady Lions are now 3-1 on the season after a 55-50 comeback win over South Carolina on Sunday. Maggie Lewis led Penn State with 18 points in the victory and is averaging 16.5 points per game this season.
After squaring off with the Lady Lions, Iowa State will face either Butler or Nevada.