“We’re not going to become 6’4” or 6’7” tomorrow.”
That’s how bluntly Iowa State head coach Bill Fennelly put this week’s challenge facing his team.
The No. 20 Cyclones will travel to Waco, Texas to take on the No. 2 ranked Baylor Lady Bears in what might be their toughest task of the season tonight (7:00 p.m. FSSW).
The Bears enter the game with a 15-1 record with a win over previously No. 1 UConn and are the last remaining undefeated team in the Big 12.
“That’s a unique thing in the women’s game,” Fennelly said. “The size advantage that they have is unlike any team in the country.”
Baylor is led by 6-foot-7 center Kalani Brown, and it’s no secret that she will be getting the ball a lot against the undersized Cyclones.
Brown averages 15.3 points per game, which isn’t a bad number, but other statistics tell a much more dominant story. The Louisiana native shoots nearly 11 shots a game averaging 10.7 field goal attempts – all but one of them being two-pointers – per game through the season. She converts them at a 61.3 percent clip.
Brown will go up against all three of Iowa State’s post players in the first quarter before getting the hot hand for the rest of the game, as Fennelly has been playing the unique strategy this season.
“[I have to] just do my work early, play as strong as [I] can, and play very physical,” senior post player Meredith Burkhall said.
Burkhall was a starter for the Cyclones in every game this season, before being replaced in the starting five by the surefire shooter in Kristin Scott ahead of Iowa State’s last game on Saturday.
Though, the Urbandale native came off the bench to have one of her best games of the year while recording a triple-double in a blowout win over the Sooners.
For Iowa State to take down the Bears, Burkhall said the team will have to play similarly.
“I think the key will be just to continue to do what we do,” Burkhall said. “We have to stick to what we do every day.”
If the Cyclones can shoot like they have been in their three Big 12 wins, this one could be really close, though if not, the Lady Bears are known to pull away from teams and keep their feet on the gas.
Baylor is currently outscoring teams by an average of 27.3 points per game, the fourth highest average in the nation.
“You have to do what you can control,” Fennelly said. “The one thing that I really stress with our team when they play any great team, is that they’re going to rebound. They’re going to score. They’re going to defend. They should not be able to break your will to compete.”
Iowa State is 1-14 all-time in Waco, and 7-26 vs. the Lady Bears overall.
The only Iowa State team to take down the Lady Bears was that of 1997.
It’s a daunting task, but Fennelly just wants to see his team play a complete game.
“Our job will be to go and play a 40-minute game, if it gets bad you can’t feel sorry for yourself. You’ve just got to do it.”
If this Iowa State team – one that many coaches have said is the best Cyclone squad in Ames in some time – don’t be surprised to see a closer game than usual for this series.
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