Photo courtesy of Iowa State athletics communications.
As the snow starts the falling in Ames and the month of December arrives, Iowa State women’s basketball team has erupted to a spot where it hasn’t been in the past four seasons: ranked in the Associated Press Top 25 poll.
Iowa State came in as the No. 23 ranked team in the nation on Monday following a 5-0 start to the season that featured a Preseason Women’s NIT championship.
Some coaches might scoff at the ranking and just carry things on as business as usual, but Iowa State coach Bill Fennelly has a different outlook.
“I think it’s great,” Fennelly said. “I’m not going to say it doesn’t really matter… yeah it does. Come on. I think any time Iowa State gets any kind of national attention, it’s great for our school, and it’s great for our team. For us, it’s something to say when you work hard and you do what you can do, good things can happen.”
With the WNIT games taking place in Hilton Coliseum, the Cyclones are gearing up for their first true road game tonight in Vermillion against the South Dakota Coyotes.
— Cyclone Basketball (@CycloneWBB) November 27, 2018
Though, it won’t be just another non-conference game for Iowa State. South Dakota provides a challenge and has qualified for the postseason regularly as of late. If it seems like the Cyclones have had tough matchup after tough matchup early on this season, it’s because they do.
“We knew coming into this year that our non-conference schedule was going to one of the more difficult [schedules] we’ve had here in a long, long time,” Fennelly said. “It’s proven to be that way so far, and it’s only going to get harder.”
Around the corner, the Cyclones have big matchups with the SEC’s Arkansas Razorbacks on Sunday and rival Iowa on Wednesday.
Part of what makes the Coyotes so good is their success when playing at home. Since moving into a new arena – the Sanford Coyote Sports Center – the Coyotes earned a 32-3 record, with only one loss coming at home in the regular season, non-conference slate.
“When you look at [who is lighting up] their box scores, it could be any of them, and that’s what makes you a good team,” Fennelly said. “They have balance on both ends of the court. They can guard in a variety of ways. I think that’ll be what we talk most about.”
South Dakota comes into this matchup with seven players that average between 7.0 and 14.0 points per game.
One of those players in particular will be trying to control the low post against the Cyclones in junior Taylor Frederick.
Frederick is second on the team with 12.0 points per game and is shooting 54.9 percent from the field.
“Her ability to go away from the basket is hard [to guard]. We’re going to see a lot of different post players as the year goes on,” Fennelly said. “We saw it against Auburn and two against Miami.”
The matchup with the Cyclones should be a little familiar for Frederick, who is from Earling, IA and led Harlan to a pair of Iowa high school state championships.
After a slow start to the season – mainly in exhibition games – Iowa State freshman Ashley Joens has caught fire for the Cyclones and gotten into a tremendous shooting rhythm. The former Miss Iowa Basketball has hit nine or more points in four of Iowa State’s five regular season games, including a team-high 18 points against Auburn.
“It’s always good when you can knock down a few,” Joens said. “My teammates and coaches are really encouraging. When they tell you, ‘Just keep on shooting, the next one is going in,’ that’s helpful.’”
Joens and the Cyclones will face off with the Coyotes at 7:00 p.m. on tonight. The game is scheduled to be televised by MC22.