Bill Fennelly said it was one of the best memories of his career.
Almost 20 of his former players were on hand to celebrate Fennelly beginning his 20th season at Iowa State. They got something else to celebrate that day too.
The Cyclones defeated the (at the time) third-ranked Texas Longhorns 59-57 on that day two weeks ago in Hilton Coliseum. In doing so, they gave Fennelly another signature win at Iowa State.
Today, the Cyclones (13-4, 4-2 Big 12) hit the road and have a chance to do something even bigger – sweep the Longhorns.
“That would be huge,” Fennelly said. “Anytime you beat a team like Texas you’re excited. But, certainly, the chance to put another win, getting three wins in a row, sweep Texas, which means you get the tiebreaker, if you get to that point.”
The Longhorns (14-3, 3-3 Big 12) enter the matchup now ranked-eighth in the AP poll, but they have lost three of their last four games, including the loss to the Cyclones.
Perhaps the biggest loss the Longhorns have suffered was a season-ending injury to their leading scorer and national player of the year candidate, senior forward Nneka Enemkpali.
Despite losing their best player down low, the Longhorns still feature a formidable post attack led by 6-foot-5-inch sophomore Kelsey Lang. Lang scored just two points on 1-10 shooting in the first game against Iowa State, but has averaged over 10 points per game the rest of the season.
According to Fennelly, limiting the Longhorns in the post and avoiding turnovers will be the keys to a Cyclone victory.
“The biggest thing is always going to be how do you handle their size,” Fennelly said. “How do you handle their rebounding? The thing that when they’ve been good, and they’ve been very good this year, is creating live ball turnovers. Our offense can’t be their offense… If you’re going to turn it over, turn it over where the ball goes out of bounds, something where you have a chance to defend them, especially on the road.”
The Cyclones enter the game in third in the Big 12 standings behind Baylor and Oklahoma, both of which are 7-0 in the conference.
On the flip side, the Longhorns sit in fifth-place in the standings, half a game behind fourth-place TCU, and a full game behind Iowa State. A Cyclone win would do wonders in helping them pull away from the pack in the middle of the league standings.
“How do we separate ourselves from everyone else that has two, three, four, whatever losses,” Fennelly said. “And you know you’re not going to play them again. So give it your best shot. See what you’ve got and then left everybody else worry about them after that.”
The Cyclones and Longhorns will tip from Austin, Texas at 3:30 p.m. and will be televised on Fox Sports 1.
Expect Moody to play
Fennelly said he would be surprised if senior point guard Nikki Moody wasn’t able to go on Sunday for Iowa State. Moody suffered a sprained ankle in Iowa State’s 80-62 win over TCU on Wednesday.
“Obviously she’s not going to be 100 percent, but she wasn’t 100 percent the other night," Fennelly said.
Even though Moody should be able to go, Fennelly says that the Cyclones have been preparing like she will be limited against Texas.
“We will prepare for her to be either not playing or limited,” Fennelly said. “That’s what we have to do. Obviously if that’s not the case then we can fall back on what we’ve done in the past.”