AMES — Iowa State women’s basketball coach Bill Fennelly made a poster before the season.
The poster showed Iowa State’s home record every season since he became the coach in 1995.
The poster showed a lot of great home records — 15-1, 14-2, etc. Iowa State is routinely in the top three nationally in attendance, in part, thanks to its impressive home record.
But last year, the Cyclones went just 7-8 at home.
“If you look at what our players have done over those years, and then you look at last year, if that doesn’t upset you, or you can fill in the blank — I’ve used stronger words with the players — then you don’t belong here, and you don’t belong in that locker room,” Fennelly said. “I had that discussion with Bridget (Carleton), Meredith (Burkhall) and Alexa (Middleton) ahead of time and they’re completely on board with it and understand it. When you have buy-in from that group, then it makes it a little easier for the rest of them to buy in.”
This season, Iowa State has already matched last year’s home-win total. The Cyclones (8-2) are a perfect 7-0 at Hilton Coliseum after beating No. 25 Drake 86-81 Sunday afternoon.
“We talked about it more than we probably should’ve,” Fennelly said. “Everyone knows in college basketball that homecourt advantage is a big deal, but I think it’s unique in women’s college basketball because not every homecourt advantage is like ours because of the fans. There is even a greater obligation to go play knowing the other team sometimes plays even better because they don’t play in front of crowds like this very often.
“I wanted them to see it, so I made a poster where you could visually look at 15-1 at home, or whatever and then what we did last year. I’m not a big goal guy, ‘Hey we’re going to win this many games.’ But I have pounded it in their head that we are going to be a better home team. We talk about it before the game, during the game, after the game, every day after practice to the point where it’s probably overkill. But after what we did last year, and for our fans to respond the way they have up to this point, that’s an obligation that we take very seriously and will continue to.”
The crowd of 10,923 on Sunday was electric from start to finish. Drake (8-3) had a contigent of fans as well and when the teams went on runs, Hilton just got louder and louder. Both Fennelly and Drake coach Jennie Baranczyk complimented the fans that were in attendance.
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“We have one of the best environments in college basketball and that’s really exciting,” Carleton said. “We don’t want to lose here, and we love our fans and we love the passion they have for us and we just want to reciprocate that. It shows a lot about our team this year and what it means to us and how important the fans are.”
Carleton took over the game after a slow first quarter. Carleton only scored four points in the first quarter and Iowa State allowed Drake to make seven 3-pointers in the first quarter.
But Carelton took off after that, finishing the game with 31 points, eight rebounds, four assists, four steals and one block. She also had seven turnovers and five fouls.
“When you look at her stat line, she got offensive rebounds, she got to the free-throw line, she turned the ball over seven times,” Fennelly said. “When everyone is standing there saying, ‘Bridget go do something.’ You’re going to turn the ball over. She was the best player in the game that willed her team to win. You’re talking about a kid that played 39 minutes at a pace that’s incredible at both ends of the floor. She’s a stat-stuffer and she wants that responsibility.”
Both teams went on a number of runs the game. Iowa City native Ashley Joens kept Iowa State in the game in the first quarter with eight points when Drake couldn’t miss from beyond the arc. And Joens started an Iowa State run in the fourth quarter with back-to-back 3-pointers followed by a layup for eight quick points. The freshman finished with 16 points on 7-for-8 shooting and three rebounds.
“She was good,” Fennelly said. “You’re talking about a kid that at this point last year was playing Waterloo East or West High School, scoring 35 points and she was bored. She never wavers. We have coached her really, really hard, almost too hard at times. But she can handle it. I took her out early in the game because she made two really bad defensive mistakes but responded by scoring eight points in the quarter. We challenged her, and she was ready to go.”
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