“Just make shots,” could have been the biggest talking point after each of the Iowa State women’s basketball team’s first five games it had played heading into Saturday’s 85-64 win over NDSU.
But, that’s just what Lexi Donarski did at Hilton Coliseum, connecting on 52.6 percent of her shots and tallying a team-high 25 points.
“I thought, today, you saw her natural skillset come out,” Iowa State coach Bill Fennelly said. “I thought we ran some things to get her in space. She didn’t hesitate. It was good to see, because we know she can do it, she just (hadn’t) yet.”
Donarski added seven rebounds and three assists to help the Cyclones improve to 3-3 on the young season.
It’s something the staff has been wanting to see from her.
“I just told her on Thursday when we were at practice that this team needs her,” Fennelly said. “We’re playing a lot of young kids and we’re trying to get Kristin (Scott) going a little bit. Donarski is a kid that needs to be the second or third option on the scouting report – I thought today she took that to heart and played that way.”
Donarski – the highest-rated recruit from her class – got some simple advice from Coach Fennelly before Saturday.
Apparently, it hit home.
“He just told me to relax and just go out there and play,” Donarski said. “I know I’m capable of things that I haven’t shown up to this point.”
Donarski is the first player to outscore Ashley Joens in a non-conference game since December 5, 2019.
“I don’t really think about it, but it was great to see (Donarski) do so well,” Joens said after the win. “She was really good on defense and I think that helped her a lot on the offensive end.”
Joens didn’t have an off-day by any means either.
The junior star for the Cyclones finished with 24 points on the day along with a team-high 10 rebounds.
The effort was commendable with the plethora of defenses NDSU threw at her.
“Ashley is going to have a catalog of defenses that she’s played against, so you’ve got to make people pay for it,” Fennelly said. “(Having other scorers) gets more driving lanes open.”
That’s why it was so big to see Donarski step up for the team, even if the game wasn’t slightly competitive.
That will help a lot down the road, so long as it continues.
“Hopefully today is a great jump start, because (Donarski) is a talented kid,” Fennelly said. “I thought she was our best on-ball defender. She had seven rebounds. She scored. I thought she had a phenomenal basketball game at time that I thought our team really needed it.”
Iowa State will return to the floor on Tuesday to take on Northern Iowa before the squad plays it’s second Big 12 game of the season on Friday night.
After that, Drake comes to Hilton to round out the non-conference season. It’s basically a less intimidating three-game stretch than the one Iowa State was coming out of going into today’s game.
If Donarski keeps playing like that, it could be a big step in helping the Cyclones close out the first part of their season on a positive note.