AMES — The Iowa State women’s basketball team took down New Orleans 71-53 on Sunday at Hilton Coliseum to improve to 5-1 on the year.
Ashley Joens led the way with 24 points and Ines Nezerwa set a career high with 21.
However, coach Bill Fennelly didn’t like what he saw and made it very clear after the game.
“[I was] very disappointed in how we played today,” Fennelly said after the game. “We’ve got to learn to show up every single day. Overall, we took a huge step backwards today, and there’s a lot of things we have to fix.”
Joens added seven rebounds and five steals to her fifth 20-point game of the season, providing one of the only bright spots inside of Hilton on Sunday.
Aside from Joens’ play, Fennelly wasn’t pleased with the performance, especially before a big road game on Thursday.
“I thought Ashley Joens played a great game today,” Fennelly said. “To be honest with you, I thought she was the only one who showed up today. We had Ashley Joens and they didn’t and that’s how we survived today.”
That’s one of the biggest things that Fennelly is missing from the astute senior class Iowa State graduated a year ago. Bridget Carleton, Alexa Middleton, and Meredith Burkhall made it easy to teach when they impacted players performances around themselves every day.
“That has been a huge problem for us,” Fennelly said. “You miss [that group] on a day-to-day, grind-it-out kind of thing, where you get better. It’s the, ‘how do you go about doing your daily work,’ that we’re still learning.”
Whether the players knew it or not coming into the game, they’ll certainly know what they have to do in Fennelly’s eyes to be successful after today. He didn’t mince many words.
“We’ve got to get after it in practice and work as hard as we can,” Joens said. “We’ve got to do what the coaches say.”
It becomes inherently more important to figure things out when two of Iowa State’s starters are battling through extra adversity to get onto the basketball court, at all.
Junior Kristin Scott may have re-aggravated a back injury she had coming into the season when she took a hard fall midway through the third quarter on Sunday.
She didn’t return to the game.
“I think she’s fine,” Fennelly said. “But, I don’t know that she felt like she really wanted to go back into the game, so we decided not to put her back in.”
That led to Nezerwa getting a lot of extra minutes and eventually breaking her career mark. She added four rebounds and three steals, but also finished with five giveaways.
“I thought [Nezerwa] did some good things, obviously, but she can’t turn the ball over five times,” Fennelly said. “We’ve got to get more rebounds out of her. We needed her to play. We tried to go big today and [Scott] got hurt again.”
Another junior, Madison Wise, sat out of her second straight game on Sunday as she is battling migraine headaches. It hasn’t been decided this early in the week and Wise will be reevaluated on Monday, but Fennelly is not confident she will be good to for the road trip.
“I think it’s probably a stretch,” Fennelly said. “In NFL terms, she’d be listed as doubtful.”
Before she missed any time with the Cyclones this season, Wise was second on the team in amount of minutes played. It’s put another wrinkle into the start of this season and has delayed Iowa State from coming together fully as a team.
Fennelly, who is in his 25th year of coaching, said that that can’t be an excuse.
“When [Wise] isn’t playing, that’s 25 minutes that someone else can play,” Fennelly said. “We put some kids in the game today [there] and it wasn’t very good. We’ve got to figure that out because we play again on Thursday at Alabama. We’d better understand that.”
Iowa State will face the 5-2 Crimson Tide on Thursday for a 6:00 p.m. CT affair. The game is scheduled to be televised on ESPN’s SEC Network.