The best women’s basketball team in the Big 12 conference is the Baylor Bears. It usually is.
They’ve won the regular-season championship nine years in a row. They’ve won the Big 12 Tournament in eight of those seasons. They’ve never failed to reach the Sweet 16 at any time in that stretch and they won the national championship a year ago.
The Bears are dominant, and Iowa State knows that.
The Cyclones trail the all-time series with No. 2 Baylor by a large margin, winning only seven times in the 36 meetings between the two teams. Only once did Iowa State win in Waco.
On Tuesday (7:30 p.m. FS1), they’ll go for two.
“A road game at Baylor,” coach Bill Fennelly said trying to take in and almost analyze the challenge for a second. “We’re brutally honest with our players. You know what you’re getting into. They’re the best team in the country – the defending national champions.”
The odds aren’t in Iowa State’s favor.
So, what does someone stay to their team when facing a seemingly insurmountable challenge?
The wildly successful coach in his 25th year of an illustrious career tells his team to focus on Iowa State.
“The things that I tell our players (are), there are certain things that we can’t control,” Fennelly said. “They’re going to rebound. They are going to steal the ball. They are going to make shots. The one thing they cannot do, unless you allow it, is they can’t keep you from competing.”
Fennelly referenced something on Monday afternoon, saying that the multitude of games Iowa State has faced Baylor in are always different, but also always the same.
This year, the Bears don’t have one defining scorer. They have five players averaging double figures, including a lengthy star post in Lauren Cox.
Not all of the Bears teams have been constructed like this one, but almost all of them were this successful.
That’s what Fennelly meant.
“(You) can’t (let them) break your will,” Fennelly said. “That’s where they get you. They just impose themselves on you and teams kind of just shut it down. When that happens, they just knock you out. It’s Conor McGregor. It’s 40 seconds and you’re done.”
He scoffed at the words he had spoken, but it was a representation of what the Baylor program brings year in and year out.
It’s how Iowa State has approached each and every game similar to this one.
It’s how the Cyclones are looking at Tuesday night in Waco.
“I tell them it’s like a Rocky movie,” Fennelly said. “You’ve got to be standing when the bell rings at the end. I don’t care what the score is. People forget Rocky lost that fight, but he finished it.”