Head coach Bill Fennelly and associate head coach Jodi Steyer watch the Iowa State Cyclones 76-68 win against the UNI Panthers on Nov. 15. Credit: Lani Tons
AMES — After Iowa State’s season opening win over UC-Santa Barbara, I wrote that senior forward Heather Bowe could be the x-factor for this year’s team. Then the graduate transfer from Vanderbilt sprained her ankle during the Cyclones’ win over Drake.
It isn’t clear how much time Bowe will miss, but she’s out for this week — at least. Iowa State’s 71-54 win over Savannah State on Tuesday at Hilton Coliseum was her first game out of the lineup and she’ll miss Sunday’s contest with Arkansas State.
In her absence, Meredith Burkhall, the Cyclones’ starting post, will likely be asked to play more minutes. She scored eight points and grabbed seven rebounds in 21 minutes on Tuesday, but those points came on just 3-of-7 shooting from the field.
Sophomore Claire Ricketts came off the bench to score four points, on 1-of-2 shooting, and grab six rebounds in 16 minutes. She’s another player that will be leaned on to play an expanded role while Bowe is sidelined.
“Heather’s been playing about 20 minutes. Obviously, Claire is going to get some of them, she played a lot of minutes tonight,” Iowa State head coach Bill Fennelly said. “We started the second half small and played TeeTee (Starks) at the five. Wasn’t anything (Meredith) did wrong, I just knew we’d have to put our starters on the bench so we wanted to get that done.”
Luckily, Fennelly’s team still has more than a week before Mississippi State visits Hilton Coliseum for the Cyclones’ first real test. Who knows if Bowe will be ready by the time the Bulldogs roll into town on Dec. 3, but it sure would be nice if she was available.
It isn’t that I think Burkhall and Ricketts can’t handle an opponent like MSU. Clearly, that isn’t the case when you consider Burkhall started 14 of the Cyclones’ 18 Big 12 games last season.
It would just be nice for the Cyclones to have another player with Bowe’s toughness and experience available when big-time opponents start visiting Hilton Coliseum.
“It really hurts a lot. Heather is mature, tough, versatile,” Fennelly said. “We have six starting players and we don’t have anyone that can replace her versatility, her toughness, her experience. We’re lucky right now tonight that the schedule fell in a way that we didn’t need her. She won’t play Sunday. She’ll be reevaluated on Monday and, hopefully, when she had her x-ray there was no structural damage so it’s just one of those old-fashioned basketball ankle sprains. She spent a lot of time in the training room rehabbing, so hopefully we’ll get her back sooner than later.”
It would be nearly impossible for Iowa State to lean on stars Seanna Johnson, who had 16 points and eight rebounds on Tuesday, Bridget Carleton, 11 points and five rebounds, or Jadda Buckley, four points and eight assists, any more heavily. Replacing Bowe’s production is likely going to come down to how well Burkhall and Ricketts play.
On the bright side, they still have Sunday’s game to work out the kinks.
“The bad part is it stinks for Heather that she’s hurt,” Fennelly said. “The good news is somebody else gets to play and everyone thinks they should play or has a right to play or whatever they think. Now, some of them have a chance to earn some, not just initial minutes, but maybe some extended minutes.”