When the No. 11 Texas Longhorns come into Hilton Coliseum on Saturday afternoon (4:00 p.m., Cyclones.tv) following the Iowa State men’s game against Kansas State, fans in attendance will see arguably the biggest game of the season to date for the No. 20 Cyclone women.
With a win against the fellow top 20 foe, Iowa State will have started 4-0 in Big 12 play and improve its home record to 12-0 with six games left in the season.
The team is running a special promotion with the men’s squad that gives fans with tickets to the men’s game the ability to purchase reserved seats for the women’s game for $3.00.
“It’s a big game,” head coach Bill Fennelly said. “Any time you have the opportunity to promote your team, you do. I’ve always said, ‘In women’s basketball, marketing and recruiting is like breathing. You do it all the time or you die.’ Our fans are always good, but when you have a unique opportunity and fans here for the men’s game, you do it. If we can pick up even an extra 100 people, that might help on Saturday afternoon.”
Fennelly credits the work of the marketing team that Iowa State has for things like this. Women’s basketball’s marketing goes hand-in-hand with football’s, men’s basketball’s, and other sports.
“I love it because I like to watch the men’s games,” Fennelly said. “I think our fans like it. I think it’s a day where you can come and make a day out of it. I know it’s a long day, but I think our fans have always enjoyed it.”
Iowa State will have the same opportunity next Saturday, only switched around. The women take on Oklahoma at noon and the men face Oklahoma State at 5:00 p.m.
“We don’t get that many chances like that because the Big 12 sets up the schedule, but when we get those opportunities, I think our fans enjoy it,” Fennelly said. “I do think it helps our crowd some. Hopefully that’s the case the next two weekends.”
One of the things that makes this Saturday’s game against Texas such a big one, is how dominant of a program the Longhorns have been lately.
Under the leadership of 2017 Big 12 Coach of the Year Karen Aston, the Longhorns have made it to the NCAA’s Sweet 16 or further four years in a row. They haven’t failed to finish third or higher in each year of the stretch.
“They’ve always had a great program,” sophomore Madison Wise said. “They’ve always been at the top of the list, but this year it’s really exciting. We know we are capable of competing and playing a really good game against them.”
That’s what it will take for the Cyclones to win and avenge last season’s results against the Longhorns. The team’s matched up three times playing the two normal Big 12 Conference games and meeting in the Big 12 Tournament. Texas won all three winning by an average margin of 19.0 points.
However, if there was any Cyclone team that was the most prepared to face a challenge like Saturday’s, it’s probably this one.
“Oh yeah,” Fennelly said. “I think in the past, we’ve probably kind of figured out ways to stay in the game and compete. Now, I think our kids, the way that we’ve played and the way that this team has approached their business day to day, they believe in themselves. We’ll go out and play [Saturday] and see what happens.”
The Cyclones are off to a 13-2 start to the season – their best since 2012-13 where they made it to the Big 12 Championship game.
Senior all-american candidate Bridget Carleton is currently averaging 19.9 points per game for the Cyclones, which is the top mark in the conference. In the three Big 12 games Iowa State has played, Carleton has not yet failed to score 24 points or more.
Coming off of the bench, Kristin Scott is playing the same way. She hasn’t missed a field goal attempt in two full games for Iowa State – something that has never been done in Iowa State history.
The offense is clicking on all cylinders.
As for how the ball is getting around to all of the tools the Cyclones have on their team this season, point guard Alexa Middleton is responsible.
Middleton was limited to playing less minutes at the start of the season due to fatigue from an injury she was battling, but has picked it up as of late, having five games in a row with five or more assists.
If everything is clicking for the team on Saturday, this one promises to be a good one.
“Being ranked in the top 20 gives us confidence that we can compete with anyone,” Carleton said. “We’re ready for the challenge.”