Iowa State women's basketball bench

Iowa State's bench cheers on teammates during their game against South Dakota State on Nov. 15.

Coming off its first loss of the season versus LSU, the Iowa State women’s basketball team aimed to recover against Longwood Sunday in Hilton.

And they did just that.

Iowa State Head coach Bill Fennelly was pleased with the way that his team played after spending the last two weeks on the road, spending time at the Gulf Coast Showcase before heading to Louisiana to take on LSU.

“The biggest thing for us was that we played the way that we need to play in a game like this,” Fennelly said. “Really proud of the way we approached our business today.”

Battling an injury dating back to last season, Maggie Espenmiller-McGraw entered the game for the first time this season. Fennelly has frequently said that she was part of the reason that Iowa State was highly ranked heading into the season and will be part of the reason that it backs up this ranking.

Espenmiller-McGraw played just seven minutes, but between the standing ovation from the crowd and scoring her first points this season it was certainly a memorable day.

“It was a good confidence booster,” Espenmiller-McGraw said. “It’s been frustrating mentally and physically.”

Leading the charge for the Cyclones was Aubrey Joens, scoring 24 points to go along with 14 rebounds. Jones has contributed in a big way to Iowa State’s success so far, scoring 12 points per game while collecting an average of eight rebounds.

While Fennelly had high expectations of Joens heading into the season, she has still managed to impress him with her strong shooting performances and aggressive rebounding.

“The kid knows how to play,” Fennelly said. “It’s about effort, it’s about want-to and obviously she can really shoot it.”

Basketball is known as a game of runs and it has been just that for the Cyclones this season. This game was no different for Iowa State, as the team mounted a big run in each of the four quarters.

These runs were important to the Cyclones, but more importantly, the team kept up an energy and intensity for the entirety of the game.

Emily Ryan discussed this after the game, saying that this is just Iowa State basketball, hard work is an expectation for them.

“Every possession is important and even in a game like this where maybe one possession wasn’t going to decide the game, we’ll have plenty of games down the stretch where you don’t know which possession will change the outcome of the game,” Ryan said.

Free throw shooting was one of the biggest advantages of the game for Iowa State, shooting 22-23 from the line compared to just 3-5 for Longwood. 

Fennelly has always focused on free throws, saying that many people are surprised at the number of free throws that the team will shoot in practice. He chooses to put this much of an emphasis on that area of the game because it is the only part of the game that the opponents cannot defend.

“Historically we have been a team that shoots free throws well,” Fennelly said. “They can’t double team [Ashley Joens] at the free throw line, they can’t maul Emily Ryan at the free throw line.”

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