AMES — If you gave Bill Fennelly the option of having Ashley Joens take two free throws to win the game, he’d take it every time.
On Saturday at Hilton Coliseum, he got his preference. Joens stepped to the line four times in the final 20 seconds. She went 4-for-4 and Iowa State went from down one to up three.
Iowa State beat West Virginia 61-58 thanks to the clutch free-throw shooting of Joens, who finished with 29 points and 13 rebounds.
“I’m not worried when she has the ball late in the game,” Fennelly said. “She wants to be there. Some kids sort of want to be there — she wants to be there and she accepts the responsibility of, ‘If I make it, I’m supposed to and if I miss it, I’m willing to do it again.’
“That’s a great thing and a great skill that’s not talked about enough.”
Joens was in a similar situation on Feb. 8 against Oklahoma. She stepped to the line with nine seconds left in that game and sealed the win for Iowa State.
“I’m pretty comfortable up there at the free throw line,” Joens said. “I just tell myself every time, ‘It’s just like practice.’ And I shoot so many in practice, so you just get used to it. I just relax and knock them down.”
Fennelly has seen the clutch skillset that Joens has displayed before.
“She reminds me of some of our former players — Megan Taylor, Alison Lacey, Bridget Carleton — where I’ll say something in the huddle and they look at me and say, ‘Just give me the ball please. Quit over-thinking this,’” Fennelly said. “Ashley has that same mentality.
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“Some people have that ‘it’ thing where they’re willing to take the responsibility that if they miss the shot and we lose the game, and she’s good with the responsibility.”
Joens is having a historic season at Iowa State. She’s averaging 21.1 points and 10.7 rebounds and already has the most points ever by a sophomore in Iowa State history with two regular-season games left. Carleton averaged 21.7 points last season — the best mark in school history. Joens is currently second.
“There are numbers and skills and stats but what are you doing to impact the success of the team?” Fennelly said. “Bridget was player of the year last year because she was the best player in our league and our team won games. Ashley Joens has to make that next step.
“Great players can put up big numbers but the No. 1 number you better put up is ‘W’s.’ Ashley’s next role is figuring out how to lead and bring her teammates with her.”
Iowa State is 16-11 overall and 8-8 in the Big 12. The Cyclones are firmly on the bubble of the NCAA Tournament and Joens has a chance in the next week to take the next step and make sure Iowa State is in the tournament.
“A lot of kids play hide and seek and don’t want the ball,” Fennelly said. “Ashley, if you don’t give her the ball, she’s mad.
“We’ll just keep giving her the ball.”
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