AMES — Iowa State freshman guard Maggie Espenmiller-McGraw hit a freshman wall after a game against Texas on Jan. 6.
In the four following games, she scored just 15 points on 23 percent shooting.
Saturday against Kansas, Espenmiller-McGraw broke out of her slump, scoring 20 points on 7-of-10 shooting from the field and 6-of-8 shooting 3-point range as Iowa State throttled Kansas 89-67.
“I thought Maggie was the best player in the game, by far,” Iowa State coach Bill Fennelly said. “To her credit, she’s had some moments where it hasn’t gone her way, which happens to freshmen, but today, her energy level was great.”
After Wednesday’s win over Kansas State in which Espenmiller-McGraw shot 0 for 5 from the field, she was in the gym religiously trying to find her shot.
She was working on her shot before and after practice as well as on off days.
It paid off.
“I wasn’t shooting well coming into tonight and I figured that they had to start falling eventually and today was that day,” Espenmiller-McGraw said.
Fennelly believes Espenmiller-McGraw is finally growing into her role.
“She’s in a role that she probably wasn’t ready for,” Fennelly said. “She came from high school basketball to Big 12 basketball and is logging a lot of minutes. We’ve challenged her from day one. The other team doesn’t care that you’re a freshman — I don’t care that you’re a freshman — you have to play. If you feel sorry for yourself, it’s going to get worse.
“Adriana (Camber) and Ashley (Joens) did a great job with her and told her to get in the gym and just shoot. And that’s the great thing about basketball, we all still love to pick up the ball and shoot. It’s not a miserable thing to have to do. Sometimes you run away from it and say, ‘it’s just not my day.’ But sometimes you have to do more and do it on your own, and that’s what she did.”
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Espenmiller-McGraw wasn’t the only Cyclone to have a strong shooting performance. As a team, Iowa State shot 58 percent from beyond the arc. Camber had 13 points on 4-for-4 shooting from 3-point range and Kristin Scott had 19 points on 7-of-11 shooting from the field.
The Cyclones (12-6, 4-3) played so well against the Jayhawks (12-6, 1-6) that Joens didn’t play in the fourth quarter.
“This is probably the first game all year we played decently and Ashley wasn’t sitting up here with me,” Fennelly said. “She had a pedestrian 13 points and eight rebounds. For most kids, that’s a good day.
“Today was the ultimate team situation. Everyone was guarding Ashley, and they should, but now all of a sudden when you double team her, there’s Adriana or Maggie or Kristin. When our kids see us play well and other people contribute the way they did, it has to help.”
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