When Iowa State coach Bill Fennelly was asked about what advantages he thought his team has in Wednesday night’s CyHawk matchup, he took time to think about his response.
After contemplating, he gave a relatively simple answer as to what the Cyclones have that the Hawkeyes don’t.
“Hilton,” Fennelly said. “Hopefully Hilton has a little magic in it [Wednesday night].”
When the two teams square off for a 7:00 p.m. tip on FS1, there are a plethora of factors to look at going in.
It’s a game that can go either way.
Under Fennelly, Iowa State is 13-10 in 23 games against Iowa. The home team, in all but one of the past 12 years, has come away as the victors.
It’s a game that can see the momentum change on a dime, even if long runs follow it.
A year ago in Iowa City, the Hawkeyes started the game on a 21-8 run. Thanks to an Alexa Middleton three-ball in the final seconds of the first quarter, Iowa State would own a run mirroring the Hawks to tie the game at 29.
It’s a game that can mean everything.
In that same game last year, Iowa City native Ashley Joens was set up for a moment, shooting what would have been a game-tying three-pointer in her home town to beat the Hawks, but the shot did not go in.
Joens finished 1-10 from the floor and Iowa State dropped that game 73-70.
Since then, and especially at the start of this season, Joens has completely flipped the script, making the 2018 CyHawk game a distant memory.
“After last year, obviously, that’s a tough way for the game to end,” Fennelly said. “She has an amazing ability for a young player to not get too focused on what happened.”
Joens will be a tool that the Cyclones rely on a lot more heavily than they did the last time these two teams faced off. She’s started off the year averaging 21.9 points per game along with 10.1 rebounds per contest.
This is both because of Joens’ work ethic and ability to overcome lowlights, but also because of the adversity the team is trying to overcome just to have a completely healthy roster.
Junior Kristin Scott has been looking to return from a back injury to playing regular minutes while Madison Wise is battling migraine headaches.
Wise, according to Fennelly, was still being evaluated on Tuesday afternoon, but he hadn’t seen anything that would, ‘even warrant thinking she would play,’ on Wednesday.
That will keep the Cyclones in their current state of Scott playing more of the No. 3 spot than she and the team had planned at the start of the season.
“It’s been a little different [without Wise],” Scott said. “I’ve been playing the three spot now, since [Joens] has been having so much success at the four spot. Learning a different position has been a little different, but we’re working on it every day.”
Scott seems to be back and as good as ever for the Cyclones, though, finishing with 20 points and eight boards in a team-high 38 minutes against Alabama last Thursday.
“She was really sore afterwards,” Fennelly said. “But, I think that gave her a little confidence that she could play extended minutes in a tough situation.”
While Scott is returning to her pure form, she insisted that the game against Alabama would be the start of something, and that her performance was just as reflective to what the team could do this year.
A win against Iowa on Wednesday would be another step towards that.
“I think I need to be more consistent,” Scott said. “I can’t let that one game define me now. It’s a good starting point for me, and it showed us how special we can really be.”
Throw each team’s six wins entering Wednesday’s game out of the window. Throw out the five combined players scoring in double figures. Anything can happen on Wednesday night and it is anyone’s guess as to what’s next.
“That’s kind of the way these games have gone,” Fennelly said. “John Neal is still talked about for the shot he hit against the Iowa men- I don’t know how many years ago. That’s what makes these games fun.”
Fennelly has alluded to it in the past. It very rarely is either team’s superstars that are making big shots to give their team the win in this series. It’s usually an unsuspecting player that comes through with a clutch performance.
“Everybody has a scouting report,” Fennelly said. “We’ll focus on three or four players, they’ll focus on three or four players, but who’s the person that is going to make a shot that changes the game?”
Last year it was Tania Davis. Now, we wait to see who it will be on Wednesday.