Iowa State trailed by nine at the half nine and Cyclones head coach Bill Fennelly went back to the drawing board.
As it turns out, what Fennelly drew at the break wound up being a masterpiece by the time the final buzzer sounded Wednesday night at Bramlage Coliseum.
Iowa State outscored the Kansas State women by 18 in the second half, led by Cyclones’ forward Chelsea Poppens, who scored 16 of her game-high 23 points after the break. The junior was 10-of-14 from the field.
“I would say that’s the best 16 minutes in the second half we’ve played all year,” said Fennelly, who is in his 17th season with Iowa State. “This is a tough place to play and we’ve brought a lot good teams in here (without) any success.”
Poppens was able to score in bunches through out the contest — especially in the second half.
After K-State took an early 17-10 lead in the first half, seven straight points from Poppens kept the Wildcats from building an insurmountable lead. Then with three straight field goals from Poppens starting at the 9:10 mark in the second half, the Cyclones built their largest lead of the game at 50-46.
Poppens was also key on the glass for Iowa State with a game-high nine rebounds. Her four offensive boards matched K-State’s team total in that category. Her inside game also opened up the perimeter shooting for the Cyclones, who went into halftime just 1-of-4 from behind the arc, but finished 6-for-14.
“When I started to make my hook shot, it just kind of kept coming,” Poppens said. “Everything started clicking for everyone.”
Fennelly said Poppens was key in Iowa State’s opportunities for better 3-point looks.
“(K-State) did a great job of jumping out, getting up into us and not letting us cut off from the screen,” Fennelly said. “We didn’t run our offense as crisply, but that’s because of them.
“I think in the second half, a lot of the 3s we got were in transition. We defended. We got the ball in the open court and (K-State) had to chase (Poppens) to the block to help, and then the 3 is open. If they don’t chase Popp to the block and they chase the 3, Popp is open.
Fennelly said the offensive strategy was actually pretty simple.
“It’s one that we live with,” he said. “In the second half, we made some of those shots too, that maybe we haven’t been making in the past. In the first half, we gave up six 3s to one. In the second half, it was five to nothing. That kind of turned the game a little bit in our favor.”
K-State coach Deb Patterson said her defense had a hard time of getting into position to defend Poppens in the second half.
“In the second half, the last eight seconds of the possession were going to be about one of two things,” she said, “drive-by’s or a duck-in to Poppens. Our defense gave that duck-in not just once, but over and over and over.
“We were incapable tonight of being in front of those duck-ins and denying them, obviously. It beat us. She was getting point-blank turns at the rim.
Iowa State guard Lauren Mansfield said when Poppens gets going, it is always a spark for her team.
“When Popps gets her shots and she gets aggressive, the defense has to change and help on her,” the senior said. “So when she’s more aggressive our offense flows better and we get open more… it works.”