The Iowa State women’s basketball team went 9-2 during the non-conference portion of its’ 2016-17 schedule. A majority of the credit for that mark should be divided between the Cyclones’ “Big 3”: Jadda Buckley, Bridget Carleton and Seanna Johnson.
The trio of Buckley, Carleton and Johnson will also dictate whether or not Iowa State succeeds in Big 12 play, as the Cyclones open up conference action on Thursday vs. Oklahoma State at Gallagher-Iba Arena (5 p.m.).
“You go on the road, especially in the conference, it’s starts with a mindset that you need to prepare the right way in practice,” said head coach Bill Fennelly. “You aren’t going to go down there at 5 p.m. Thursday night and show up and think you are good unless you have done the work here No. 1. No. 2, you take the approach of it’s a business trip and you handle it the right way and the third thing is, you rely on your experience players.”
Buckley, Carleton and Johnson are three of Iowa State’s most experienced players but they are so much more. They are the livelihood of this year’s Iowa State team.
The trio has accounted for 58 percent of Iowa State’s scoring this season. Johnson averages 18.6 points per game. Buckley averages 15.6 while Carleton chips in 15.1.
But Oklahoma State is really good defensively.
On the season, Oklahoma State is ranked No. 33 in the nation in scoring defense, allowing an average of 55.2 points per game. Not only do the Cowgirls allow a limited number of points, but they hold their opponents to low shooting percentages. Oklahoma State is holding its foes to 34.2 percent from the field (good for No. 21 in the nation) and 26.6 from behind the 3-point arc (good for No. 30 in the country).
“They are really big,” Seanna Johnson said of OSU. “They are a really tall team. Just focus. Boxing out is key for us. We have to help out Mere (Burkhall) a lot. Rebounding is key.”
For the season, Oklahoma State is averaging 43.69 rebounds per game, good for No. 26 in all of college basketball.
All season long Fennelly has stressed that Iowa State needs to have more players not named Seanna Johnson to grab rebounds. And as of late, Burkhall, Heather Bowe and TeeTee Starks have been better on the glass. This trio of players are averaging 6.8, 4.6 and 5.8 rebounds per game respectively.
Iowa State will now face bigger, faster and stronger opponents in the Big 12 so the “Big 3” – and its supporting cast – needs to be on the top of its game.
It all starts on Thursday in Stillwater.