The Iowa State women’s basketball team kicked off its Big 12 season last week with two statement wins over each of the Kansas teams. The team is currently on a six-game win streak and recently moved up to No. 20 in the Associated Press Top 25.
Enter week two of the conference season, where the big games keep coming, which is exactly what the Cyclones will experience this week.
Before welcoming in the No. 13 Texas Longhorns into Hilton Coliseum on Saturday, Iowa State will take on TCU at Hilton Coliseum Wednesday night (6:30 p.m. Cyclones.tv).
The Horned Frogs are lead by senior Jordan Moore, who scores 16.6 points per game for the team. Tasked with guarding Moore will be Iowa State’s rotation of down-low players, including the hot hand off the bench right now in Kristin Scott.
“The physicality was a big step for me [when I was guarding her last season], being a freshman,” Scott said. “I kind of know how Big 12 play is this year.”
With the Cyclones ready to play two home games in a row after coming off of two conference wins, it’s important the team takes care of business this week.
Especially in Tim Floyd’s method.
“That’s one of those things that I remember when Coach Floyd was here,” coach Bill Fennelly said ahead of Wednesday night’s game. “He had his own little plus-and-minus system. If you get a home win, you get a zero. If you have a road loss, you get a zero. It’s nice to get a plus one. You don’t get many of those.”
Along with the zero’s for home wins and road losses in Floyd’s system, teams are awarded a, “plus,” if they win a Big 12 game on the road and a, “minus,” if they lose a Big 12 game at home.
Iowa State is one of three Big 12 teams with a plus through the first week of the conference season.
It's not as clean looking as what @khaal53 used to do, but with all of the talk of the Tim Floyd standings in the past week in Ames, I decided to put a table together following the first week of Big 12 play on the women's side of things. pic.twitter.com/jYaMg6Zwjv
— Connor Ferguson (@cfchangs9) January 8, 2019
The win against Kansas came at exactly the right time for the Cyclones, as Fennelly and his team earned their first road win of the season.
“We’ve played thee road games and we’ve been in every one of them,” Fennelly said. “Luckily, we won one of them.”
The team has played three games on the road this season, dropping the first two against South Dakota and Iowa before the win in Lawrence.
The combined record of those three teams at home this season: 24-1.
That one loss was contributed by Iowa State handing Kansas its first home loss of the year. The other two teams are undefeated.
This week, it’s Iowa State’s turn to keep the home success going as they have all season. The Cyclones come into the week with a 10-0 record at Hilton.
It’s a good thing that the Big 12 Player of the Week, Bridget Carleton, is playing the best basketball of her career. The all-american candidate was already Iowa State’s most instrumental player all around before the three-game stretch she has gone on right now.
Against Bucknell in the last game to get ready for Big 12 play, Carleton tallied 19 points in a promising performance. When Big 12 play arrived, she took things to another level. Carleton scored 26 and 33 points in the first two conference games, respectively.
“We’re getting used to identifying our strengths and weaknesses, and just knowing what coach wants from us,” Carleton said. “We’re getting good looks and shooting well from the field. That’s just a credit to the shots we’re taking and the point guards and coaches putting us in spots to get great looks.”
Fennelly says that the bench play is where Iowa State’s record is going to improve. If the Cyclones are going to be a great team as opposed to just a good one, it will be in thanks to those role players that emerge in different games.
For instance, even though Scott is one of the Cyclones’ best right now, she came off the bench to shoot a perfect 7-for-7 from the field on Saturday including three 3-pointers.
“It’s going to be hard to play better than 7-7 and 3-3,” Fennelly said. “I don’t think there’s any doubt that the way [Scott] and [Nezerwa] played on Saturday was big.”
Ines Nezerwa had four points, but they came at an instrumental time for the Cyclones.
The play of those bench players is what is going to win the team games in conference play.
“As the season goes on and the wear and tear gets to you, foul trouble gets to you, or an injury somewhere, you want those kids to feel comfortable in their role and in the way they can contribute,” Fennelly said.
Then there is that weird thing Iowa State has going for them while on the six-game win streak they’re on right now. The second quarter.
Iowa State has done more than just outscore its opponents in the second frame of each game, using it to pull away and create big leads going into halftime.
Saturday was no different, as Iowa State went into the quarter tied at 17 with the Jayhawks before taking things into halftime with a 10-point lead.
“I think our team does a very good job of understanding the flow of the game once they’re in the game,” Fennelly said. “Yeah there’s things you would like [to do] to start better. In the KU game we talked about [the fact] that they were plus seven in the first quarter and plus eight in the second.”
It isn’t as as random as it looks.
Fennelly accredits seniors Alexa Middleton and Carleton’s efforts and experience to adjust things and take off when that second quarter arrives.
“I really think because of [Middleton] and [Carleton] especially, they get a good sense of where the options are offensively,” Fennelly said. Defensively, we made a couple of slight adjustments on how we handled their ball screens.
“It’s been kind of one of those weird phenomenons,” Fennelly said. “The second quarter has been really good to us.”
Whether it’s a second quarter push that opens the game up widely, or a bench player erupts for her best game of the season, Iowa State will look for a win on Wednesday to start 3-0 in the conference going into a big matchup this weekend.