AMES, Ia. — The Iowa State women’s basketball team opened the 2020-21 season with a lineup full of fresh faces with three freshmen making their way into the starting five; while that group struggled to find its rhythm during a shaky start to the game, a familiar face stepped up.
Junior Ashley Joens scored a game-high 25 points as No. 18 Iowa State kicked off the season with a 69-43 win over Omaha at Hilton Coliseum on Wednesday. Joens, now in her third season of starting, jumpstarted Iowa State, which struggled through first game jitters and first quarter rust.
“You just have to step up and make a few plays, allow the rest of the team to get comfortable and then I felt like after that, they were more comfortable and just able to relax and play like they normally do,” Joens said.
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Joens, Iowa State’s leading scorer from a season ago, stepped up when Iowa State needed her most. That was early on in Wednesday’s contest when Iowa State’s new and very young starting lineup, turned it over eight times and shot just 42.9 percent (6 for 14) from the field in an ugly first quarter.
Joens, who had four points in the first quarter, carried her team in the second. She scored 13 of Iowa State’s 19 second-quarter points and was all of the Cyclones’ offensive production during a 6-0 run that pushed their lead to 29-16. Iowa State took a 33-22 lead into halftime.
“She really got everything going for us and we were able to feed off her energy,” said Iowa State freshman Lexi Donarski.
Not having Bill Fennelly in Hilton was….odd
Wednesday’s season opener was already going to be odd without many fans in the stands. But, we’ll get to that later. The oddest part may have been the fact that Iowa State coach Bill Fennelly wasn’t on the bench. Fennelly was at home and in self-quarantine after coming into contact with a person that tested positive for COVID-19.
Jodi Steyer, Iowa State’s associate head coach and a long-time member of Fennelly’s staff, filled in for him. It marked the first time Steyer replaced Fennelly since the 1990s when the two worked together at Toledo and Fennelly was ejected after picking up two technical fouls.
“It was a little different,” Joens said of not having Fennelly. “We’re always used to hearing his voice on the sidelines and everything. But, I think coach Steyer did a great job of stepping in and she took on that role and the coaches helped out. It was different but it all worked out.”
When Fennelly may return hasn’t been announced yet. But the Cyclones coach has been able to watch practices on