After Iowa State’s 79-75 win over Michigan State in the first round of the NCAA Tournament on Monday, the seventh-seeded Cyclones advanced and will face another tough opponent in the second round: the No. 2 seeded Texas A&M.
The Aggies ended the regular season with a 23-2 record and finished on top of the Southeastern Conference with a 13-1 conference record. A&M beat 15th-seeded Troy in the first round of the NCAA Tournament 84-80 to move on to the next round.
In comparison to Big 12 teams, Head Coach Bill Fennelly said the Aggies remind him of Texas and Baylor when looking at film.
“[The Aggies are] long, athletic, rebound the ball really well, beat you off the bounce,” Fennelly said. “They get to the free-throw line a ton.”
Fennelly said defensively, Texas A&M is always very good and said they are very scout-oriented. In their game against Troy on Monday, the Aggies had four players score in double-figures.
In order to counter and defend the balanced scoring attack the Aggies bring, Fennelly said the Cyclones will have to set their defense and guard the front of their jerseys, not the back.
“Get back, no live-ball turnovers, try and keep the ball in front of you,” Fennelly said. “We’ve had some struggles with that in the past but when you get to this level against a team like this you gotta find a way to do it.”
The Aggies had 13 offensive rebounds and went 20-24 from the free-throw line against Troy, which Fennelly said were two of their biggest strengths that Iowa State will have to combat.
Fennelly said rebounding for Iowa State is the area he’d like to see the Cyclones improve upon most in their next game against Texas A&M. In Monday’s game, the Cyclones tied the Spartans in number of rebounds at 37, but Michigan State out-rebounded Iowa State 15-13 on the offensive boards.
“We’ve got to figure out a way to defensive rebound the ball better,” Fennelly said. “If we can do that, we can probably hang around and see if we can compete, but if we don’t, I’ll be in my office on Thursday.”
Aside from better rebounding, Fennelly said keeping junior guard Ashley Joens out of foul trouble will be important for the Cyclones and to be able to get minutes out of senior forward Kristin Scott, who has been limited due to injury.
Joens had to sit in two instances Monday night during the game against Michigan State due to foul trouble, and during that time, senior guard Madi Wise stepped up for the Cyclones.
Fennelly said without the way Wise played Monday, there was no way Iowa State would have won the game.
Wise said having the trust of her teammates and coaches helped everything click for her Monday night, as well as the fact that being a senior, any game could be her last.
“Just going out there, giving it our all, leaving it all on the court,” Wise said.
Iowa State athletes have said all season that they feed off of each other and when one person is scoring, they all score.
Wise said that’s a big thing for them and will be important for them to beat the Aggies.
“When someone else is hitting I think it just kinda gets everybody else’s confidence up,” Wise said. “I think that just really shows how close we are off the court, our chemistry is really, really good so knowing that other people are doing well then everyone else is gonna step up.”
No. 7 seed Iowa State will compete against No. 2 seed Texas A&M at 6 p.m. Wednesday in San Antonio. The game will be available to watch on ESPN2.