It was a well-contested battle for Bill Fennelly's Cyclones Tuesday the South Dakota Coyotes, but a late rally within the final eight minutes propelled Iowa State to 2-0 on the young season with an 88-72 victory.
The victory marks 72 consecutive regular season wins in non-conference play, the 88 points being the most points scored since December 2010.
A game of runs in the first half, each team went back and forth with the Cyclones holding onto a one-point lead heading into intermission. The Coyotes of the Summit League weren't flashy, but were fundamentally sound and were able to get good position and play strong defense for most of the game before a key play with 8:30 remaining changed the momentum in the game. A technical foul on South Dakota's Junior guard Raeshel Contreras provided enough spark for the Cyclones to go on a 21-3 run and put the game away.
"I said on our bench that I thought the technical foul changed the game," Fennelly said. "For whatever reason it relaxed Hallie [Christofferson] and I think it got Brynn [Williamson] a little excited. Brynn played a little different those last 10-12 minutes. I don't know if it was coincidence, but it sure seemed to me that the mood changed on our team and certainly did with Brynn and Nikki [Moody]."
"That was a moment when our team came together and felt like it was our time to put this team away," added Williamson, the junior guard.
Unanimous All-Big 12 preseason selection Hallie Christofferson started the game scoring the teams' first seven points, but hit a slump midway through the game, before picking it up late and scored a team-high 25 points and 12 rebounds. It's her 13th double-double.
But that slump allowed South Dakota to stay within arm's reach.
"As a team, we were holding the ball too much," Williamson said. "We were stopping and slowing the game down. Coach said that we were all standing still looking for Hallie to score 32 points again. We have to realize that we have four other girls on the court who have to step it up. [And when] Hallie started knocking down shots, so did we."
The hard-fought game will come to be a learning experience for the Cyclones, who start two true freshmen guards in the backcourt.
"In the second half everyone was getting kind of nervous," Fennelly said. "You can learn a lot by winning a close game. Our kids understand how hard [this victory] was and what we have to do to be better in the next situation. There are thanks we have to do better and we will work in in practice. When the ball got out of certain people's hands, the game kind of stopped. Our trailing post has to be better. And we have to understand that Hallie doesn't make every shot. But we are excited to get back to practice on Friday."
Iowa State will have a few days rest before traveling to Cincinnati on Nov. 21. The Lady Bearcats are 0-2 on the season after losses against Northern Kentucky and Florida State.