Iowa State star Ashley Joens gets one last chance at a win in her hometown of Iowa City

Tommy Birch
Des Moines Register

AMES – Of all the shots Iowa State women’s basketball star Ashley Joens has taken as a visitor at Carver-Hawkeye Arena, there’s one that stands out.

“I just remember freshman year when I missed that shot in the corner,” Joens aid.

Joens was playing in her eighth college game and first in the in-state rivalry against Iowa when she tossed up a last-second shot attempt that went off the mark. A basket would have sent the game into overtime.

“I’d say it kind of drives every game,” Joens said. “When you think back to previous years, or you look back at film — every game you re-watch and see what you’ve done wrong or what you could have done better. That all kind of motivates you and kind of helps you get better for the next game.”

Iowa State star Ashley Joens has one last shot to get a win in Carver-Hawkeye Arena. Joens is a graduate of Iowa City High.

Joens, one of the most accomplished players in Iowa State basketball history, will get one last shot to win in her hometown when the eighth-ranked Cyclones take on No. 30 Iowa at Carver-Hawkeye Arena on Wednesday at 6 p.m. (ESPN2).

“Any time, especially rivalry games, when you get to showcase for your school, your university, it means a lot,” Joens said. “It’s going to be an exciting game and we just have to come out ready to go.”

Joens hails from Iowa City and was a basketball star at City High.  She opted to go to Iowa State and has put together an illustrious college basketball career.

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Joens is Iowa State’s all-time leading scorer. She took the Cyclones to the Sweet 16 last season and entered this season as the Big 12 Conference’s preseason player of the year. But she has yet to win on the court in her own backyard, with the Cyclones dropping contests in 2018 and 2020 in Iowa City. The 2018 game had the heartbreak miss at the end. The 2020 game included a huge comeback from Iowa, which rallied from a 22-point deficit in the fourth quarter to beat Iowa State.

Joens said she occasionally gets some grief in her hometown for the 2018 and 2020 losses. And the miss back in 2018 still motivates her. But for the most part, she's turned the page on both losses and helped change the storyline of the series after a huge performance in last year's matchup. Joens poured in 26 points, grabbed 11 rebounds and tallied six assists in a 77-70 victory that snapped a five-game losing streak to the Hawkeyes.

“I think she’s really done well in these games,” said Iowa State coach Bill Fennelly. “The star players, the players that everyone gives the most attention to, are the ones that usually try and show up in these games and have those kinds of moments."

More:Iowa State women's basketball player Ashley Joens named AP Preseason All-American

The Cyclones went on to sweep their in-state opponents last season, also beating Drake and Northern Iowa. It was an important goal for Fennelly, whose team went on to set single-season school records for wins and league victories. Fennelly wants to accomplish it again this season.

The Cyclones have already beaten Northern Iowa. Now they have Iowa on Wednesday and then they host Drake on Dec. 22. Another big game for Joens against the Hawkeyes could be the difference.

“This is a big deal for us,” Fennelly said. “Always has been since I got here. You want to be the best team in your own state and try to be and we play everyone in our state and two of the three we play are on the road. The years that we’ve swept in state, we’ve accomplished a lot in those years. But that’s right at the top of the list for me.”

It's also big for Joens, who will be squaring off against former Dowling Catholic all-stater and current Iowa star Caitlin Clark. They are among the top players in all of college basketball. And while many fans will be focused on the two stars, Fennelly said the biggest difference-maker could be someone else.

"The obvious storyline is certainly two in-state kids but it's not a pay-per-view one-on-one game," Fennelly said.

Tommy Birch, the Register's sports enterprise and features reporter, has been working at the newspaper since 2008. He's the 2018 and 2020 Iowa Sportswriter of the Year. Reach him at or 515-284-8468. Follow him on Twitter @TommyBirch.