AMES — Iowa State women’s basketball was waiting for someone — anyone — to hit an open shot. The Cyclones were shooting just 32 percent from the field entering the third quarter Tuesday night but managed to keep the game close against Auburn.
Iowa City High grad Ashley Joens was that person. She hit three straight 3-pointers to open the fourth quarter. Her hot hand allowed senior Bridget Carleton to drive the lane with nine seconds left to hit the game-winning layup in a 67-64 victory over the Tigers in a preseason WNIT semifinal at Hilton Coliseum.
“Luckily Ashley and Maddie (Wise) had hit some 3s so they weren’t coming off the shooters and I was able to get to the rim,” Carleton said. “Good call by Coach (Bill) Fennelly.”
Joens hit five of Iowa State nine 3-pointers in the game, which was somewhat surprising given the fact she went 0-for-4 from the field in the first quarter.
“She was huge for about four minutes,” Fennelly said. “Early in the game, she couldn’t make anything and was a little bit tentative. But she hit three in a row and for us, it opens up the court, gets the crowd in the game. We were all waiting for something to happen and Ashely made it happen.”
It was Joens’ hot start to the fourth quarter that allowed Iowa State (3-0) to jump out to a 10-point lead. Joens finished with a team-high 18 points.
But Auburn’s (3-1) Janiah McKay hit a pair of difficult 3-pointers of her own during a run that allowed Auburn to tie up the game at 64.
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“I told them, ‘We got beat, we won, we gave it away and took it back,’” Fennelly said of the strange nature of the game. “It was like a holiday, taking and giving gifts. We had a 10-point lead and did some really not smart things. But then at the end of the game, the best players usually show up. For them, McKay hit some unbelievably tough shots — that’s why she’s a great player. For us, it was Bridget.”
Carleton followed up her game-winning layup by immediately blocking McKay’s game-tying layup attempt.
“That’s the big thing everyone talks about — she hit the big shot,” Fennelly said. “But for her, it was a rebound, it was a switch on defense, it was a blocked shot, oh and by the way, she hit the layup that won the game.
Carleton finished just shy of a triple-double with 15 points, 13 rebounds and eight assists.
“The kid’s an amazing player who has taken such great pride in this team and has put them on her back,” Fennelly said. “She hasn’t come out of the game in the last two games. We talked about it, the assistants and everyone asked, ‘Should we get her out?’ and I just kind of ignored them. I asked her one time if she was tired, but I was going to ignore that, too. She’s just a special kid and special player.”
The Cyclones will host the winner of Miami and Marquette in the preseason WNIT final at 3:30 p.m. Sunday.
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