Iowa State looks for scoring punch
Iowa State knows it can count on Kelsey Bolte for offense.
If the Cyclones want to contend in the Big 12, they're going to need to find someone besides their star to lean on for some scoring punch.
No. 20 Iowa State (13-4, 1-2 Big 12) enters a much-needed week off. The Cyclones dropped a road game at top-ranked Baylor, pounded Nebraska at home and got stung by Colorado 66-60 in an overtime upset in Boulder.
Iowa State knows it needs to sort out its scoring woes with No. 6 Texas A&M (15-1, 3-0) set to visit Hilton Coliseum on Saturday. The Cyclones are ninth among Big 12 teams with 65.1 points per game - and they've scored less than that in all three league games.
''Obviously, we are offensively challenged. We've got to find a way to make some shots,'' Iowa State coach Bill Fennelly said. ''That's been an issue with our team off and on all year.''
Bolte has done everything she can to carry the Cyclones.
The senior guard from Ida Grove has blossomed into one of the Big 12's top players while helping fill the void left by the graduation of do-everything point guard Alison Lacey. Bolte is averaging a career-high 16.8 points, shooting 46.5 percent from 3-point range and ranks second to Baylor's Brittney Griner in Big 12 games at 23 points an outing.
Bolte has been at her best in the second half of conference games, averaging 19 points after the break. But what's equally astounding is that her teammates have combined for just 19 points a game in the final half.
In the loss to Colorado, Bolte shot 10 of 18 from the field, and the rest of the Cyclones went 11 for 48. Iowa State shot just 7 of 31 from the field in the first half in Boulder, 1 of 6 from the free throw line in overtime and didn't hit a basket in the final 4:22.
The cold start was reminiscent of its game against Baylor, when the Bears had a 16-0 lead and cruised to a 70-58 win. Iowa State also trailed early against the Huskers before overwhelming them in the second half of a 64-43 win.
''Kelsey Bolte has been amazing and playing at an All-Big 12 level. But the inconsistency is in our ability to score the ball and make shots, and that certainly hurt us in our last game, we've had some stretches where we've been unable to score for six or eight minutes,'' Fennelly said. ''It's put us in holes we were unable to get out of.''
Iowa State has a talented young core behind Bolte, but it's just that: young.
Junior-college point guard Lauren Mansfield is averaging a 6.2 assists per game, but she's shooting just 34.1 percent while hoisting up the most shots on the team outside of Bolte.
Sophomore center Anna Prins and freshman forward Hallie Christopherson have both had promising starts, and sophomore forward Chelsea Poppens have developed into their top rebounder.
The Cyclones certainly have defended like a Big 12 contender. They've allowed opponents to hit an unsightly 32.8 percent of their shots, trailing only a Baylor team powered by the seemingly unstoppable Griner in the post.
But for Iowa State to break through the log jam at the top of the Big 12 standings, it needs players other than Bolte to start hitting some shots.
''As long your effort is there, as a coach you can't fault that,'' Fennelly said. ''We do a lot of shooting practice. We've got to do some more making practice, I guess. ''