AMES — The sweats came off after about four minutes were played.
Iowa State forward Chelsea Poppens — sidelined for three games because of a concussion — reported to the scorer’s table.
The Sunday crowd of 11,745 at Hilton Coliseum roared.
Poppens entered the game against Fairfield moments later, her headaches gone, her aggressive demeanor squarely in place.
“She was pretty juiced up to play,” said Cyclone Coach Bill Fennelly, whose 22nd-ranked team dispatched the visiting Stags, 60-43. “She was like the bronco when the gate opens — there she goes. That’s the way she always plays. It was almost crazy (Sunday).”
Poppens played 22 minutes in her first action since Nov. 23 and nearly notched her 24th career double-double, going for 12 points and nine rebounds.
“Mentally, I was ready,” said Poppens, who grabbed six of ISU’s 12 offensive boards. “There were a few times I was winded, but that’s a given.”
A win appeared to be more or less a sure thing pretty early, too.
The Cyclones (6-1) stormed to a 20-7 lead behind 11 points from forward Hallie Christofferson.
Poppens had been in the game for precisely 12 seconds by the time that lead had been forged with 13:50 left in the first half.
“We talked about that, after coming out on the Iowa (loss) so sluggish,” said Christofferson, who scored a game-high 18 points. “(Today) we had to come out focused and get off to a good start.”
Fairfield (5-3) pulled within nine, at 40-31, to start the second half, but the Cyclones responded with an 18-3 run fueled by 3-pointers from Christofferson and Brynn Williamson.
Point guard Nikki Moody performed efficiently, dishing out 10 assists to two turnovers.
She also grabbed seven rebounds while only scoring four points — which is fine with Fennelly.
“If Nikki does this every game, she’ll get her points,” Fennelly said. “Because we’ll be ahead and they’ll foul her.”
Poppens, Fennelly said, will practice normally unless the medical staff raises any further concerns.
In other words, the gate’s wide open.“It’s a whole different world when she’s around,” he said.