The Iowa State Cyclones women’s basketball team are currently on a two-game win streak after beating North Dakota State at home and the University of Northern Iowa in Cedar Falls, Iowa.
The Cyclones will look to extend that streak, and improve to 2-0 in Big 12 play, Friday when they take on the Kansas State Wildcats for their Big 12 home opener.
Most years, basketball teams wouldn’t be playing conference games so early in the season, but with COVID-19 still ravaging the country, this is not like most years.
Head Coach Bill Fennelly said playing two Big 12 conference games before Christmas is unique and not something they would do in a normal year, but every team is doing it.
“We play when the Big 12 tells us to play,” Fennelly said. “... If you had nonconference opportunities, bring teams to your building, give kids a chance to travel, with our conference tournament being later, I don’t see this as a long-term model, but who knows, but every team’s doing it, so we got one in and we’ll our next one in Friday night.”
Last season, the Cyclones beat the Wildcats at Hilton 73-59, but lost to Kansas State on the road by nine and Iowa State has won four of the last five against Kansas State.
Fennelly said getting a win Friday and starting conference play 2-0 would be huge, and every game played this year is a good one.
“Obviously this is a year that every game you can get in this league is a good one and the uniqueness of playing two conference games prior to Christmas, you know you’re playing everyone twice,” Fennelly said. “So to lose a home game or to win a road game, those things start to add up.”
He added that Kansas State is playing at a high level and has one of the best players in the league in Ayoka Lee, so it will be difficult.
The Cyclones will look to carry the momentum from the wins they got over North Dakota State and the University of Northern Iowa to get another win in Big 12 play.
Fennelly said it is about continuing to get better, but that it is also about execution.
“Our team is playing really, really hard, really hard,” Fennelly said. “And I have no qualms with that, our execution has gotta get better. We gotta do the little things and follow scouting reports, run our offense, all the things that every coach complains about. We told them ‘we’re not gonna coach your effort, we’re not gonna coach your level of enthusiasm,’ we haven’t had to, our kids have done a great, great job, I’m really proud of them.”
Against the Panthers, the Cyclones were able to find more balanced scoring with usual leading scorer and junior guard Ashley Joens having trouble finding the bottom of the basket.
Freshman Lexi Donarski led Iowa State with 19 points and senior forward Kristin Scott had a double-double with 18 points and 11 rebounds.
Fennelly said it has to be a group effort for the team to be the best version of themselves, but that he was really happy for Scott and the way she played.
“She’s worked really hard and it hasn’t gone great for her,” Fennelly said. “But the second half of the game she played like an Iowa State senior should play in a game that we needed her to play that way… I thought our team did a really good job.”
Freshman guard Kylie Feuerbach was another player who stepped up when the team needed her, recording a career-high 13 points.
Feuerbach said she is still adjusting to the college game, but that it has improved each game a little bit more.
She added that she has been figuring out her confidence and aggressiveness a little bit more each game as well.
“I like to drive to the basket a lot so I think that against UNI I was able to do that a little bit more and I just have to get used to the physicality and having the confidence to get to the basket,” Feuerbach said. “I think going into K State that’s going to be something big.”
Iowa State will take on Kansas State at 6 p.m. Friday at Hilton Coliseum. The game will be available to watch on Big 12 Now on ESPN+.