CEDAR FALLS, Iowa – Ashley Joens scored 26 points, Stephanie Soares had 23 and No. 7 Iowa State survived a scare in its first road game of the season, holding off Northern Iowa 88-85 on Wednesday night.
The Cyclones led by as much as 14 points and had a 76-63 advantage with 8:25 left in the game before the Panthers rallied.
“It felt like a first or second-round NCAA tournament game,” Iowa State coach Bill Fennelly said. “It really did. The intensity of it, the emotion of it, the ebb and flow of it. Really entertaining.”
Emily Ryan’s 3-pointer with 2:03 remaining gave Iowa State (3-0) an 86-85 lead after Northern Iowa (2-1) had pulled ahead. Ryan added a jumper in the lane 48 seconds later.
“Honestly, I was just try to get the team into a position to win the game,” Ryan said. “Whatever the defense was giving us is what we were taking and it just so happened that I was open at the end.”
Northern Iowa had a chance to tie it, but Kayla Laube’s 3-point attempt hit off the side of the rim with 1 second left.
Iowa State appeared in control before the Panthers went on a 15-0 run that included nine points from Grace Boffeli, who scored 26 overall.
“I thought our ball movement in the second half was terrific,” Northern Iowa coach Tanya Warren said. “We were able to get downhill, we were able to isolate (Boffeli) in the middle of the floor, and it allowed us to get back in the basketball game.”
Fennelly decided against calling a timeout during the run.
“Every team that I’ve been a part of that’s been really, really good, at some point the coaches don’t step away, but you get out of the way, and you let the players decide,” he said. “Sometimes this time of year you have to learn the hard way.”
Joens, an Associated Press preseason All-American, was 9 of 18 from the field, including six 3-pointers. She also had nine rebounds.
Joens, in her fifth season with the Cyclones, grew up in Iowa City and understands the intensity of the in-state rivalry games.
“Any in-state game, whether it’s Drake, Iowa, UNI, we’re going to get everyone’s best shot,” Joens said. “It really is a pride thing and it shows you how good the basketball is in the state of Iowa. It’s a lot of fun.”
Ryan had 14 points, Denae Fritz had 12 and Lexi Donarski had 10 for the Cyclones.
Maya McDermott had 22 points, Kam Finley had 15 and Laube had 12 for Northern Iowa.
The Cyclones improved to 39-9 in the series, including 22 of the last 26 under Fennelly.
“We’re not into emotional victories,” Warren said. “But we just went toe-to-toe with the seventh-ranked team in the country. A possession here or there, and it could have gone our way.”
KEEPING UP WITH JOENS
Joens became Iowa State’s leader in career field goals and 3-pointers. She has 795 field goals, passing Angie Welle, who had 791 from 1999-2002. Joens’ 263 3-pointers are four more than Brynn Williamson.
Joens, the Division I active scoring leader with 2,438 points, is also the program’s leader in scoring, scoring average, field-goal attempts and free throws made.
The Cyclones had won their first two games by a combined 57 points. They couldn’t shake the Panthers until the closing seconds, even though Northern Iowa missed 10 free throws and committed 15 turnovers.
“When everyone puts their scouting report together, it’s going to have (the ranking of) No. 7 or No. 8 or whatever, and we get that,” Fennelly said. “Hopefully we learned a lot.”
Iowa State: Hosts Columbia on Sunday.
Northern Iowa: Hosts No. 20 Creighton on Sunday.