Natasha Mack lines up under the hoop for Oklahoma State, boasting a 6-foot-4 frame and accolades that include belonging to the Big 12’s all-defensive team a season ago.
In the absence of Kristin Scott, Iowa State trotted out a smaller Madison Wise as the post player to square off with Mack in Wednesday night’s matchup with Oklahoma State.
Mack finished with 34 points and 13 rebounds. It was her season-high scoring mark.
Yet the Cyclones won 90-80.
“That was a terrific effort by our team,” Iowa State coach Bill Fennelly said. “I could not be more proud. We played well and to do it without (Scott) is special.”
The thing is, Iowa State didn’t need to win the matchup against Mack. The Cyclones just needed to keep her off the charity stripe, as Mack leads the Cowgirls in free throw attempts.
Mack leads the Cowgirls in free throw attempts and Iowa State’s goal for the night included keeping her away from it.
Mack ended the night 2-3 on free throws.
“(Mack) is a great player,” Fennelly said. “That kid is impossible to guard by herself. We just didn’t want to foul. She brought the offensive boards and hit some really tough shots. That’s why she’s going to be an early draft pick in the WNBA. When you think about two undersized post defenders doing what they did tonight, I thought they did the best they could.”
The Cyclones controlled the game and responded with an offensive punch every time the Cowgirls, who were previously unbeaten in Big 12 play, tried to claw back.
Sometimes it was Ashley Joens. Sometimes it was Maggie Espenmiller-McGraw drawing an and-1 on a jumper. Late in the first half it was Morgan Kane banking in a three.
“That was really big,” Fennelly said. “We had a hard time stopping them, so we had to score. We just felt like our offense was efficient. We had just one turnover in the second half.”
Iowa State put it all together on Wednesday and they did it without Scott. That speaks volumes to how far along this group already is.
Earlier in the season, the team needed Joens to get to 25 or 30 points, but on Wednesday it was just a cherry on top.
Joens finished with 30 points and 15 rebounds on the night.
“You just have to keep on playing (against them),” Joens said. Oklahoma State is a team that isn’t going to go away. You just have to keep battling them back when they’re playing (like that).”
The win improves Iowa State to 8-4 on the season and 4-1 in Big 12 play.
Kristin Scott remains out dealing with a head injury, but she did take the court for warmups on Wednesday night. Her status for Baylor remains day-to-day.
The Cyclones got a tough win on Wednesday night, but the road only gets tougher this week as the team heads to Waco on Saturday to take on No. 6 Baylor.
The last time Iowa State played the Lady Bears, Scott didn’t play and the Cyclones won. They hope to do the same on Saturday, but they’ll take Scott back as soon as she’s healthy.