AMES — Bill Fennelly most likely wasn’t the easiest guy to live with this week.
He says he is grouchy most every week during the busy basketball months but this week is different. Tonight the Iowa State women’s basketball (4-3) team takes on in-state rival No. 23 Iowa (8-1) at Hilton Coliseum.
“Iowa week I’m just miserable to live with,” Fennelly said. “My wife always encourages me, ‘You need to go to the office and watch more film, don’t you? You need to do something.’ This game means a lot. I grew up in this state and I understand what it means. I’m not going to insult anyone’s intelligence by saying it’s just another game.”
This will be Fennelly’s 20th matchup against the program’s most hated rival. He is always quick to mention the two teams didn’t play during his first season.
“But after that we’ve played them every year,” he said.
The Hawkeyes lead the all-time series between the two programs 24-21, and it is not surprisingly a rivalry that has been dominated by the home teams.
The home team has won 29 of the 45 games between the two teams, 16 of those wins belonging to the Cyclones. The home team hasn’t lost in this series since Lyndsey Medders led Iowa State into Carver-Hawkeye Arena in 2006.
Fennelly thinks this year is different.
“This is the first time that I can remember when the visiting team is better than the home team,” Fennelly said. “I’m not insulting our team but they’re in the top-25. We’re not. They’re 8-1. We’re 4-3. So we’ve got a lot to prove and we’re challenging our kids everyday to understand that. This is something that if you play at Iowa State you need to understand that. You come into the game with that attitude, that approach.”
Lisa Bluder’s team has been nearly perfect to start the season with their only loss coming in double-overtime against George Washington. All this coming after the Hawkeyes lost multiple key players, including third-team All-American Samantha Logic, to graduation after last season.
Iowa’s statistics don’t look much different than Iowa State’s. They both have multiple double-digit scorers, with a few not too far behind. They shoot a similar number of 3-pointers and score a similar number of points.
In other words, this game could be fun.
“Their efficiency on offense and their balance on offense is incredible,” Fennelly said. “They shoot the ball great. It doesn’t matter who they put out there. They’re always a great free throw shooting team. Their balance from one to five is not something that most college teams can say that they have.”
Junior guard Alexa Kastanek has been the Hawkeyes’ top shooter so far this season knocking down 24 3-pointers while shooting at a 47 percent clip. Sophomore forward Chase Coley has led the way down low while averaging 10.1 points and 6.1 rebounds.
While both those players have had big games, it’s been Junior Ally Disterhoft that’s led the way for Iowa. She’s averaged 16.1 points, 4.8 rebounds and a team-high 3.6 assists during the first nine games of the year.
“Ally Disterhoft is as good a player as we’re going to play all year long,” Fennelly said. “They have other kids that have just found ways. When we’ve played them in the past if we’ve done a decent job on their best players, someone else has been us. Last year Whitney Jennings played a great game against us. That’s what good teams do and they have a great program with great players.”
Questions still remain for Iowa State with freshman forward Bridget Carleton’s status for the game still up in the air.
Carleton has missed the last three games after suffering a concussion in Iowa State’s loss to Duke down in Cancun. She was averaging 13.3 points and 7.8 rebounds before missing time.
“The doctors need to tell me she can go,” Fennelly said when asked about what she has to show in order to get back on the court. “Everyday she gets better. She’s passing all her tests. The protocol that they go through, you know, exercising and whatever. She’s doing everything she can. If you asked her, she would’ve played the next day. That’s the kind of kid she is, but this is not something you take lightly.”
Getting Carleton back could be a huge boost for Iowa State as they look to continue the dominance of home teams in this part of the Cy-Hawk rivalry.
It isn’t the most hyped sport played between the two schools. It’s most likely not the one people will be constantly rehashing. That doesn’t mean it’s not a rivalry.
This is still Ames versus Iowa City. This is still cardinal and gold versus black and gold. It’s still Iowa State versus Iowa.
“Friday night will be a night that we can give our fans what they want,” Fennelly said. “Women’s basketball doesn’t have enough of these. We’re really lucky with the Cy-Hawk series and the way the administrations have approached this. It’s not more important than the football game or the men’s basketball game but it’s pretty close.”