AMES — The Iowa State women’s basketball team’s five-game losing streak in the Cy-Hawk series has been especially difficult on the Cyclones’ biggest star, Ashley Joens.
Joens, an Iowa City native, had suffered through three straight losses against the Hawkeyes. She missed a big shot vs. Iowa during her freshman season and was a part of a gut-wrenching loss last season that included a massive second-half collapse.
That’s why, moments after the 16th-ranked Cyclones ended their Cy-Hawk losing streak with a 77-70 win over No. 13 Iowa on Wednesday night at Hilton Coliseum, Joens sprinted to the center of the court where her teammates were celebrating and found teammate Morgan Kane. As Joens began to hug Kane, a giant smile crept across the Iowa State senior’s usually stoic face.
“If this is her last year at Iowa State, I promise you, this is a moment that you’re going to see her smile a little more than normal,” said Iowa State coach Bill Fennelly.
And for good reason. Joens was the star of the show for the Cyclones. She poured in a team-high 26 points, grabbed 11 rebounds and handed out six assists in her first victory over the Hawkeyes. It was possibly a fitting finish for Joens, who could utilize her extra "COVID year" if she wishes to return in 2022-23. But if Joens doesn’t return, she’ll exit with a monumental win for all sorts of reasons.
The Iowa City High graduate had yet to beat her hometown team and college rival, experiencing plenty of heartache along the way.
She missed a potential game-tying 3-pointer as time expired during a 73-70 loss at Iowa in 2018.
Last season, after a dominant first-half performance, she was slowed down as Iowa rallied from a 17-point deficit in Iowa City.
“She completely understands what this is about,” Fennelly said. “She knows where she went to high school. She knows what people are going to say and not say.”
There will be plenty of good things to say about her most recent performance. She knocked down three free throws in the final 14.1 seconds to ice the game. One of the greatest players in Iowa State history got the victory she had been lacking.
"We knew it was going to be a tough game," Joens said.
Here are some thoughts.
Lexi Donarski slows down Iowa star Caitlin Clark
Clark, the former Dowling Catholic star, scored 26 points. But it was a quiet and tough 26 points for Clark, who shot 10-of-26 from the field and just 4-of-12 from 3-point range. One of the top players in women's basketball never got into a scoring rhythm and turned it over six times.
Donarski, an Iowa State guard, can take credit for that. Before the game, Fennelly laid out a simple goal for slowing Clark: Try to make her total shots equal her total points. Mission accomplished.
"Lexi is a phenomenal defender," Fennelly said. "And Caitlin is a phenomenal basketball player. But she had to work hard to get her shots and some of the shots she hit you've just got to be like, 'Damn, that's pretty good.'"
Iowa State seals the deal
The series has had some close calls the last five seasons. Four of Iowa State's losses have been by six points or less. But besides a third-quarter run by the Hawkeyes, Iowa State held off Iowa and come up with big play after big play.
Among them: A 3-pointer by Donarski to put Iowa State ahead 61-56 and a 3-pointer by Aubrey Joens to give the Cyclones a nine-point lead late in the fourth quarter. Then there were Ashley Joens' big free throws at the end.
"The games have been so competitive," Fennelly said. "Luckily tonight we finished it unlike the last couple of years."
Tommy Birch, the Register's sports enterprise and features reporter, has been working at the newspaper since 2008. He's the 2018 and 2020 Iowa Sportswriter of the Year. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org or 515-284-8468. Follow him on Twitter @TommyBirch.
This article originally appeared on Des Moines Register: Ashley Joens shines in Iowa State vs. Iowa women's basketball game