When the Iowa State women’s basketball team heads to Iowa City on Thursday to take on in-state rival No. 24 Iowa (7-2), they will look to do something they haven’t done in eight years – win.
The Cyclones (5-1) last won at Carver-Hawkeye Arena in November of 2006 when they defeated the Hawkeyes 80-74. The Hawkeyes lead the all-time series between the teams 21-23, while dominating at home to a record of 15-6.
“It’s a venue we’ve struggled in,” said Iowa State head coach Bill Fennelly. “The last few times we’ve been over there the games been over early. So we’ve got to do a better job of getting through the first four minutes, let alone 40.”
Iowa State won the matchup between the two teams last season at Hilton Coliseum by a score of 83-70. The Cyclones return their top two scorers from that contest in senior forward Brynn Williamson, 21 points and sophomore guard Jadda Buckley, who scored 19.
On the flip side, Iowa also returns their leading scorer from last season’s game in senior guard Samantha Logic. According to Fennelly, Logic, who was an honorable mention All-American a year ago, is one of the toughest players the Cyclones will play all season.
“She’s the kind of kid that you love to have on your team and you hate that the other guy has them,” Fennelly said. “I think that’s the greatest compliment you can give someone. She embraces winning the numbers prove it. She does everything the right way.”
While that is very high praise for Logic, the Hawkeyes are far from a one-trick pony. They have four players averaging in double-figures, while one more player averages over nine points per game.
The Iowa State guards will have their work cut out for them defensively as they try to stop sophomore Ally Disterhoft (15.1 points per game), senior Melissa Dixon (13.4 points) and Logic (11.1 points 6.7 rebounds and 6.1 assist per game).
“They are going to be the best team that we’ve seen,” Williamson said. “It’ll be interesting to see how we matchup with them, especially when we go with our five guard rotation.”
While the perimeter presents a challenge for the Cyclones, it could be the one in the middle that causes Iowa State the most trouble. A 6-4 senior center named Bethany Doolittle (10.8 points, 7.3 rebounds and 1.8 blocks per game), will be the Cyclones’ first true test inside.
“We haven’t faced a shot blocker this year,” Fennelly said. “When you face a shot blocker, the number one thing you can’t do, is be scared of getting your shot blocked.”
The Hawkeyes present a big challenge for the Cyclones on Thursday but when you are going on your biggest rival’s home court, that is what should be expected.
“It’s great that Iowa State – Iowa women’s basketball is a part of one of the greatest rivalries there is in sports,” Fennelly said. “We’re excited about it.”
Three things to watch
1. How will the young Iowa State frontcourt handle their first true test?
Thursday will be the first time that freshman center Bryanna Fernstrom gets a chance to go against a true power-5 conference center in Doolittle. It will be important for her to attack early and get her confidence against such a good shot blocker. Look for her to possibly step out of the lane and try to draw Doolittle away from the basket to open up the middle.
2. Can the Cyclones win in Carver-Hawkeye Arena?
The Cyclones haven’t won in Iowa City in almost 10 years and that was the last time the road team won in this series. The Cyclones will need to get out to a fast start and not let the Hawkeyes jump out to an early lead. A win on the road could be a big-time confidence builder for this team moving forward.
“It would be something that’s a great sense of pride,” Fennelly said. “You know you beat a good team in a tough environment.”
3. Can Iowa State slow down the Iowa offense?
The Hawkeyes enter the game averaging 80.9 points per game, which is 23rd in the nation. While the Cyclones have been even better, 81.3 points per game, good for 20th in the country, so the pace could get frantic at times. The Hawkeyes are loaded in the backcourt, so it will be interesting to see what Coach Fennelly does to try and slow down the Iowa offensive attack.
Thursday’s game will tip at 7 p.m. and be televised on the Big Ten Network.