AMES, Iowa -- Iowa State cruised to its first NCAA Tournament win in six years on Saturday -- and moved a step closer to its first Sweet 16 in nearly a decade.
Bridget Carleton led four players in double figures with 23 points and third-seeded Iowa State routed New Mexico State 97-61 on Saturday for its first victory in the tournament since 2013.
Alexa Middleton had 15 points, nine assists and five rebounds for the Cyclones (26-8), who were one-and-done in their last three trips to the Big Dance. On Monday, they'll face 11th-seeded Missouri State -- which stunned DePaul 89-78 earlier Saturday -- in search of the program's first regional semifinal appearance since 2010.
"The NCAA is supposed to be fun, and today was fun," Iowa State coach Bill Fennelly said. "The best part of it is that we get to play again."
Iowa State never trailed -- and it never let the Aggies' explosive offense breathe, either.
The Cyclones suffocated NMSU in the first half, holding the Aggies to 10 of 43 shooting in building a 50-26 halftime lead. Iowa State hit 6 of its first 11 3s and outrebounded New Mexico State 31-19 in the opening 20 minutes.
Carleton, the Big 12 player of the year, hit a long 3 late in the third quarter that gave the Cyclones their first 30-point lead at 73-42. Iowa State pulled its starters early in the fourth quarter -- and all 13 Cyclones scored.
"We just played together, and that's what is so enjoyable about this team," Middleton said.
Brooke Salas had 18 points and 12 rebounds for New Mexico State (26-6), which saw its winning streak snapped after 17 games.
"All year long this team has battled," NMSU coach Brooke Atkinson said. "I thought we battled them. They have length and size and at certain points we let them get on runs."
Iowa State: After seeing the rival Hawkeyes struggle mightily with a No. 15 seed on Friday, the Cyclones eased any fears over a possible upset with a stirring start. Iowa State will likely find buckets much tougher to come by on Monday when they host the Bears -- who picked up their first NCAA win since superstar Jackie Stiles led them to the Final Four in 2001. "The way they handled DePaul was impressive," Fennelly said. "It'll be the kind of game we've played in the Big 12."
New Mexico State: Salas, the back-to-back player of the year in the WAC, went to the bench with two fouls late in the first quarter. The Cyclones exploited her absence, reeling off 10 straight points to jump ahead 36-18. Still, the Aggies' 17-game winning streak tied a school record.
Iowa State senior Meredith Burkhall, who had seen her role diminish with sophomore Kristin Scott emerging as a star in the post, hit back-to-back shots in the fourth quarter that brought the Cyclones bench to its feet. It might have been the last extended action in Hilton Coliseum for Burkhall, as Iowa State closes out home play on Monday. "Meredith is the best," said Carleton, Burkhall's roommate. "It was good to see her enjoy herself. She's had some ups and downs."
Iowa State outrebounded the much smaller Aggies 59-33. ... The Cyclones also went 20 of 23 from the line. ... Surprisingly, NMSU turned the ball over just eight times. ... Ashley Joens scored 14 points with eight rebounds for the Cyclones, and Scott had 12 points with eight boards. Reserve Ines Nezerwa grabbed 14 rebounds and blocked a pair of shots for Iowa State. ... Gia Pack had 16 points and 10 rebounds for New Mexico State.
SHE SAID IT
"I think we competed as best we could," Salas said.
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