A lot of young Iowan girls have dreamt of playing on the Iowa State women’s basketball team.
Some have had the opportunity to live that dream out — and one of those players is freshman guard Maggie Espenmiller-McGraw, who made her first start for the Cyclones in their 90-40 victory over the Arkansas Pine Bluff (UAPB) Golden Lionettes Friday night. Espenmiller-McGraw was second on the team in scoring with 15 points.
“It was exciting to hear my name in the starting lineup and to be able to have my first start be in front of my family,” Espenmiller-McGraw said.
In her first career start, Espenmiller-McGraw, an Indianola, Iowa native, scored 15 points, on six for ten shooting. She also hit two of her four three point attempts.
While being one of the top scorers on Friday, Espenmiller-McGraw also had an effect in other areas, as she grabbed six rebounds and dished out nine assists.
Espenmiller-McGraw earned a career-high in points, rebounds and assists against the Golden Lionettes.
“Her shot selection was really good, she tried to get the ball to the right people at the right time and she didn’t try to force anything unnecessary shooting the ball,” Iowa State head coach Bill Fennelly said. “Tonight was by far her most balanced game on both ends of the floor.”
Defensively, Espenmiller-McGraw had one steal and one block.
Coming into Friday’s game, Espenmiller-McGraw had been averaging 7.5 points per game, 3.3 rebounds per game and 2.6 assists per game in 99 total minutes played in four games.
Four of Espenmiller-McGraw’s nine points came in the third quarter, while the Cyclones were on a 25-1 scoring run at the end of the frame.
The only knock on her performance on Friday was that she committed five turnovers, the most of any Cyclones player.
“The two things that every freshman has to understand is that the pace of the game causes you to turn the ball over [and we’ve got to clean that up] and the game defensively is,” Fennelly said. “But both of those are getting better, she’s making plays and she’s going to be a very good player.”
Espenmiller-McGraw was a five-star recruit in high school, where she played high school basketball for Indianola high school and Southeast Polk.
Like most newcomers who see significant playing time in their first season, she’s had some rough patches that she’s had to get through.
“I told her, you’re in a graduate-level class as a freshman,” Fennelly said. “When we signed her, we told her we are going to coach you really hard early because we need you.”
To start the game, Espenmiller-McGraw drilled two three-pointers that gave Iowa State a 12-3 lead with 5:55 left in the first quarter. She led all scorers in the first quarter with eight points on three for four shooting from the floor and two for three shooting from beyond the three-point line as Iowa State led 21-7.
At halftime, Espenmiller-McGraw led all scorers with 14 points on six for seven shooting and two for three from beyond the three-point line. The Cyclones held a 41-23 lead at halftime.
Espenmiller-McGraw scored one point in the second half but had three rebounds and six assists. She finished the game with 29 minutes which led the Cyclones, with sophomore forward Ashley Joens right behind her, logging 28 minutes.
One of the reasons that Espenmiller-McGraw got more playing time is because, forward Madi Wise has been dealing with migraines. Wise did not suit up on Friday and the time table for her return is unknown.
Espenmiller-McGraw’s performance earned her a starting spot in Sunday’s game against the New Orleans Privateers and she could earn more starts as the season progresses, according to Fennelly.
The 4-1 Cyclones face off against the Privateers at 1 p.m. on Sunday in Hilton Coliseum.