“Time to get back on the right track.”
That’s what I imagine Hannah Belanger had to say about the Cyclones’ offense before the 1st quarter in tonight's (win) over the Southern University Jaguars. Hannah and the rest of the Cyclones started off on the right foot, knocking down five of their eight 3-pointers in the first quarter. Led by Belanger’s three of four from deep and nine total points, the Cyclones sped out to an 18-9 lead with just under 5:00 to go in the first frame. As the first quarter came to a close with the Jags keeping relative pace at 20-13 down, the Cyclones ended the quarter with 5 straight points to nearly double up the visitors at 25-13. Though the stat that stood out most, was the Cyclones only allowing 3 rebounds. Yes, THREE. The Cyclones hit the glass early and often, outrebounding Southern 10-3 in the first.
The second quarter started just as the first did. A three ball, this time knocked down by the freshman, Kelsey Joens. As if that wasn’t good enough, the Cyclones held the Jags scoreless through nearly the first third of the second quarter, while knocking down another basket, extending their lead to 30-13 before Southern called a timeout to try and stop the bleeding. They’d do that to an extent, not letting the 17-point lead be extended immediately, but as is the case with Thanos in the Marvel movies, Audi Crooks, and the Cyclones’ scoring at the basket, is inevitable. Six straight points earned in the paint (two from Addy Brown free throws on a layup attempt) pushed the lead up to 46-22 with just over a minute to go before the break. The final minute was quiet on both ends with just a single bucket for the Jags as the Cyclones took their 22-point lead into the break at 46-24.
The memo coming out of the half seemed to be fairly obvious for the Cyclones.
Get Audi Crooks the ball down low.
They went to the freshman center early and often, to varying degrees of success. Audi has had her ups and downs this year, but as she continues to get more minutes and more experience in this offense, she should continue to improve. But back to the game for now.
The Cyclones extended their lead to 24 before the Jags started to maintain the pace of the game, leading to hotly contested back-and-forth third quarter. Just 12 points from both teams left us at a 58-36 Cyclones lead heading to the fourth.
That’s when the Jags, led by senior guard Chloe Fleming, made their run. Nine straight points for the visitors cut the lead to just 13. Bill Fennelly let his team continue to play though, not calling any timeouts. Iowa State was able to steady the game back thanks to a couple key three pointers. One from the veteran Nyamer Diew and the other from the freshman Kelsey Joens. The stabilizing was short-lived as the veteran group Jaguars could only be stifled for so long. Another quick 5-0 run got the Cyclone lead down to 13 again at 67-54. The Jags called timeout at this point with 3:02 to go.
The Cyclones had a quick change of pace as well, going back to Crooks and Brown down low, rather than spacing the floor around the perimeter. That commitment to moving the ball around led to Addy Brown capping off a season-high 18 points (Audi Crooks finished with 16) and also led to Arianna Jackson knocking down the open dagger 3-ball to end the game 78-60.
It wasn’t always the prettiest of games, but the Cyclones rode the hot start from 3 and passed up a good shot for a great shots (25 assists on 30 made baskets) to find their second win of the year.
They’ll be in action next in Las Vegas against the Vanderbilt Commodores on November 24th at 3:30 p.m.