Iowa State women's basketball (5-1) travels to the University of Alabama (5-2) on Thursday in a SEC/Big 12 Challenge game for the Cyclones’ first game against a Power Five opponent.
The Crimson Tide will present the Cyclones a new challenge with the athleticism, size and depth they have, which will be similar to the Big 12 regular season.
“You know when you go on the road and you play this kind of game, it's what you’re going to see in the Big 12,” said head coach Bill Fennelly.
Fennelly said Iowa State will be playing in a tough environment against high-major athletes in games, in which he said he will learn a lot about the Cyclones.
For the Crimson Tide, Fennelly said they have 11 players in their rotation and four players 6’3" or taller.
Iowa State likes to play with one true post player, with the other guards and forwards on the court primarily being perimeter players.
Fennelly said the pressure will be on those perimeter players to contribute to rebounding, especially on the defensive end of the court.
Iowa State will have Kristin Scott back at post, but starter Madi Wise will be out again due to migraines — but she will travel to Tuscaloosa, Alabama.
Scott only played 16 minutes against New Orleans on Sunday after a player fell on her. Scott has been on a minutes restriction after tweaking her back in the offseason, but Fennelly said she practiced Monday more than she has all season and feels fine.
Ashley Joens, listed as a combo forward/guard, has been a contributor on the boards for the Cyclones this season, which has helped her make a huge impact as the Cyclones’ top scorer this season.
“I think getting to the free throw line, obviously, has been huge and you know I think on half of her offensive rebounds she’s been fouled,” Fennelly said.
Of her total rebounds, offensive ones have accounted toward 30.1 percent of her total, and she leads the team in rebounds per game with 10.7.
With that being said, Joens will have a greater challenge due to the height of Alabama’s players, which could have an effect on her rebounding and scoring.
Fennelly said Joens, who has been able to use her size to score low on smaller defenders, will have to add more mid-range and three-point jump shots against opponents like Alabama.
Joens said, though, that the team has been able to play against height like Alabama’s so far.
“In practice, we practiced against it, so just being able to transition that into the game will be huge,” Joens said.
Maggie Espenmiller-McGraw, a freshman point guard, said the Cyclones guards will really be focused on crashing defensive and offensive boards.
While Alabama is lengthy, Espenmiller-McGraw said the Crimson Tide aren’t as fast as some of the other teams the Cyclones have played this season, so since the Cyclones won’t have to worry about being beat in transition, the Cyclones can dedicate more players to rebounding.
Espenmiller-McGraw hasn’t made a huge impact in the scoring column, but she has recorded at least eight assists and at least five rebounds in the teams’ last two games.
Espenmiller-McGraw will have to take care of the ball against Alabama and contribute rebounding.
With guards like Espenmiller-McGraw contributing to rebounding, Iowa State will be able to compete with Alabama’s height and length on the road.