Aubery Joens/Maggie Espenmiller-McGraw media day 2021

Aubery Joens laughs with Maggie Espenmiller-McGraw at media day on Oct. 6.

The Cyclones advanced to 8-1 and bounced back from their first loss of the season with a 94-56 victory over Longwood on Sunday.

Focus and effort went hand-in-hand with some special performances that gave a big boost to the Iowa State squad.

Taking care of business

In a game that wasn’t close for very long, the Cyclones still made it a point to dive for loose balls, play tough defense and execute the offense throughout all four quarters.

“That’s just our mentality coming into every game,” Emily Ryan said. “Every possession is important, and even in a game like this where maybe one possession wasn’t gonna decide the game, we’ll have plenty of games down the stretch where you don’t know what possession will change the outcome.”

Ryan had five steals herself, continuing her exceptional run of defensive play to start the season.

Head Coach Bill Fennelly was also pleased with the way his team handled the matchup.

“I think the biggest thing for us was that we played the way we needed to play in a game like this,” Fennelly said. “Knowing that we’re approaching the Christmas holiday, we’ve gotta finish this thing the right way. Really proud of the way we approached our business today.”

It just doesn’t stop

Do you hear that? It sounds like a broken record. But the same old song just keeps on playing.

The Aubrey Joens hype train kept chugging along against the Lancers, as the sophomore recorded new career-highs yet again.

Scoring 24 points while grabbing 14 rebounds, the boost she’s provided to the team since moving into the starting lineup continues to show.

“I don’t know that you can put it into words, especially with Denae, [Nyamer] and Maggie being hurt,” Fennelly said. “All of a sudden, here comes Aubrey.”

Fennelly expressed how Joens’ stats continue to surprise him. When he heard the numbers from his son, assistant coach Billy Fennelly, he asked him what he was talking about.

The confidence Aubrey has in herself and the confidence her teammates and coaching staff have placed in her have helped her reach higher heights nearly every game this season.

“She’s probably getting tired of: ‘I’m Ashley Joens’ little sister’,” Fennelly said. “Now she’s Aubrey Joens."

A special return

On Sunday afternoon, Maggie Espenmiller-McGraw checked into the game with just under six minutes left in the first quarter.

Maggie Espenmiller-McGraw Texas 2020

Iowa State sophomore Maggie Espenmiller-McGraw shoots a 3-pointer against the Texas Longhorns on Jan. 23.

It was the first action she’d seen since a matchup against Kansas State on Jan. 28. Missing all this time due to a nagging lower-leg injury, Espenmiller-McGraw played seven minutes, scoring six points on a three and an and-one layup.

“There’s no way I can articulate how hard and how frustrating it’s been for her,” Fennelly said. “Injuries are a part of the sport, but it’s so hard.”

After draining the three early in the fourth quarter, the Hilton crowd erupted for the junior guard.

Ryan, who assisted the three, was happy to see her teammate get that moment.

“Hearing the crowd when she came out was just a lot of fun,” Ryan said. “She’s been working really hard to get back on the court, and to see her come out and play so well was really fun.”

Detailing what a challenge it’s been both mentally and physically to come back from the injury, Espenmiller-McGraw showed appreciation for the team’s trainers and doctors.

And, of course, the Hilton faithful.

“It was super special hearing them,” Espenmiller-McGraw said. “It was good to be back out there with my teammates.”

“It’s always exciting to play, but I’m glad it was a home game at Hilton because it’s the best place to play.”

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