It’s the greatest time of year for a basketball coach, player and fan.
This is March.
Conference tournaments are about to begin or already in full swing. For the Iowa State women’s basketball team, it will look to win its first Big 12 Tournament game since 2012-13 on Saturday against Kansas State in the No. 4 vs. No. 5 seed matchup in Oklahoma City at 11 a.m.
“It has been a few years since (Iowa State) has won a conference tournament game,” said Iowa State head coach, Bill Fennelly. “I think now, seriously, the mindset of you lose, you are done…You want that sense of urgency that everyone has.”
Entering the Big 12 Tournament, the Cyclones are the hottest team in the league. They finished the regular season with five straight victories and went from possible NIT participants to likely NCAA Tournament competitors. If it isn’t the case already, a win over the Wildcats would likely make the Cyclones a lock for the dance.
“It’s extremely important,” said Iowa State guard Seanna Johnson. “Especially when you are on the bubble, you have to go out there and just win. Play hard. I think this team…going out the regular season winning five straight that helped us with our confidence.”
Back on Feb. 1, Iowa State took on the then-No. 2 Baylor Lady Bears at Hilton Coliseum. The outcome wasn’t spectacular for the Cyclones as they lost 83-52 to the Lady Bears. That loss put Iowa State at 3-9 in Big 12 play and 12-11 overall.
Some outsiders thought that the Cyclones had no chance at any kind of postseason play after that. However, Johnson used that as motivated and strove to prove the doubters wrong.
She stood in front of her teammates before games and told them, “That it’s not about the win or losses. If you go out there and fight hard, and play for 40 minutes strong, good things will happen.”
Johnson’s talks worked as Iowa State changed its season around with a 80-55 win on the road over then-No. 22 West Virginia.
“I think that just helped us with our confidence,” Bridgette Carleton said about the win. “We knew how good we could be after that win and I think that just ignited some more energy from us. It lit the flame again. We are in a good spot, especially going into Big 12 Tournament and postseason.”
For what it’s worth, the last team to beat Iowa State was Kansas State back on Feb. 11, 80-68.The Wildcats outplayed the Cyclones in every aspect of that game. Kansas State outshot Iowa State 48.3 percent to 37.9 percent from the field and 50 percent to 35.7 percent from behind the 3-point line.
Entering the third matchup with Kansas State, there is not much Iowa State can change this time around according to Fennelly.
“I think right now, you don’t want to change a whole lot,” Fennelly said. “Things are pretty good. You may add a wrinkle here or there, but that’s the great thing our league, whoever you are playing in the conference tournament, you are playing for the third time. We’ve had two very close games with Kansas State. Both of them could have gone either way. It’s your typical, four-five matchup.”
Iowa State won the first meeting 75-69.
“Knowing that we beat Kansas State and lost to them, we know that this is one of those games that we have to go out there and prepare to win,” Johnson said.