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AMES — By the time No. 7 Iowa State took the court against No. 15 Texas on Wednesday night at Hilton Coliseum, it wasn’t a secret the Cyclones were going to have to put together some of the best basketball they’ve played all season to come out victorious.
Down two key contributors in Aubrey and Ashley Joens due to COVID-19 related protocols, Iowa State fell to the Longhorns, 66-48, and dropped its first Big 12 game of the season.
Ashley, who leads the Cyclones and is 16th in the country at 20.3 points per game, and Aubrey, the Cyclones' best 3-point shooter at 47.4 percent, weren't with the team in any capacity Wednesday.
But when asked about the challenges of not having the Joens sisters, Cyclones head coach Bill Fennelly said he didn’t see much of a difference.
“It didn’t in my mind,” Fennelly said when asked what changed with the Joenses out. “We can sit here all day and make excuses for anything and everything, but that’s not the Iowa State way of doing things. That’s not the way we do things here.”
Excuses or not, the Cyclones (16-2, 5-1 Big 12) missed Ashley’s offensive production Wednesday against the Longhorns (13-3, 3-2). Iowa State shot 27.9 percent from the field, the lowest percentage the Cyclones have shot in the last four seasons. The Cyclones finished with 15 turnovers — a high for them in conference play this season.
While Emily Ryan did most of the scoring for Iowa State, finishing with 19 points, the sophomore guard admitted Wednesday was more of a struggle than usual.
And it reflected in her own play.
“I think a big part of it was we let their defense dictate what we did offensively,” Ryan said after the 66-48 loss. “Started with way too many turnovers, on my part especially.”
Ryan ended the game with seven turnovers.
The Cyclones struggled to put the ball through the net all night, opening the game just 2-of-16 from the field in the first quarter. After an up-and-down second quarter, Iowa State walked into the locker room down 39-30.
But then Texas delivered a blow out of halftime. Or what Fennelly called a “knockout.”
The Longhorns opened the third quarter on a 7-0 run and the lead grew to 16. The Cyclones scored four points in the quarter and never recovered enough to make Texas sweat.
“It couldn’t have gone really worse,” Fennelly said of the third quarter. “They knocked us out. We kept playing, I’m proud of our effort, I thought we competed.”
Alongside Ryan, Lexi Donarski scored eight of the Cyclones’ first 10 points and finished with 14.
When the game was out of hand, Fennelly pulled Ryan and Donarski out of the game and spoke to them for an extended period of time before they grabbed towels and hit the bench.
“Obviously, there were some things they couldn’t control, but I thought they played their guts out,” Fennelly said of Ryan and Donarski.
“You gotta find other people that can score besides Emily Ryan and Lexi Donarski. We had a lot of minutes with not a lot of production.”
Iowa State finished with 12 made baskets and 15 turnovers in the loss, including a combined 5-of-21 shooting outside of Donarski and Ryan.
Texas head coach Vic Schaefer said Texas players shouldn’t have known Iowa State was down both Joens sisters, as it is team policy to take players’ phones the night before a road game.
But there was no escaping the news that Iowa State was down its leading scorer.
“I was out there at shoot-around and my director of operations walks over to me and she’s talking loudly and is, ‘Hey, look at this!’ and I said, ‘I’ve already seen it, don’t say a word’”” Shafer said.
After the pregame nerves left and the game finished, the Longhorns beat the Cyclones for the fourth time in a row and have left Iowa State winless against them in Hilton since the 2014-15 season.