Lexi Donarski goes up for a layup during Iowa State’s blowout win over NDSU. Photo by Luke Lu / Iowa State Athletic Communications
The Iowa State women’s basketball team started off its season playing nine games in 28 days.
Sunday – when the team takes on Big 12 foe Texas Tech (3:00 p.m. ESPNU) – will mark 18 days since Iowa State played its final game of the non-conference season against Drake.
They’ve only played one time in that 18-day stretch, a loss to Texas last Sunday.
“It was like, ‘Hit it hard, basically stop, and now let’s hit it hard again,” Iowa State coach Bill Fennelly said. “It was odd. Wednesday was a little surreal. We actually scrimmaged like it was game day at Hilton Coliseum.”
Iowa State was originally supposed to play Kansas on Wednesday night, but due to the number of Jayhawks out for COVID-19 protocols, the game was postponed to a later date.
It left the Cyclones on an extended break again, in which they utilized two off days from practice and a scrimmage throughout the week.
“(The scrimmage) was OK,” Fennelly said. “It was probably better than I thought. I wasn’t real happy with it, but it’s just hard. I just want to try and keep it as normal as possible at a time when it’s impossible to be normal, but it was OK. No one got hurt.”
Next up on the schedule, Iowa State has four games in 10 days, starting on Sunday against the Lady Raiders (6-4, 1-3 Big 12).
The next two games in that stretch? Oklahoma State, who is off to a perfect 4-0 start in conference play, and No. 2 Baylor.
A win against Tech is important to stay near the top of the Big 12.
“We’re trying to keep the rhythm normal – a two days, play a game kind of thing,” Fennelly said. “When it’s not normal, (we’re trying to) create as much normalcy and as much rest as we could, because the rest is probably about done for the rest of the year bearing another pause by someone.”
Rest is a big key for the Cyclones, who play each of their four freshmen almost 20 minutes per game and in most cases more.
The transition from high school to college gets tougher for younger players because of the number of games the team is playing in a short span of time.
The early part of the season will have helped them get adjusted to it. However, the Big 12 slate is bigger and more daunting.
“Our freshman bodies are going to ask themselves, ‘Is the season over?’ and they’re going to look at the schedule and go, ‘No, we’ve got 12 games to go,” Fennelly said.
The upperclassmen like Kristin Scott try to ease pressure off of the younger players.
They tell them to focus on the details.
“The biggest thing I think is still focusing on the little things,” Scott said. “Once you get tired and stuff, you kind of forget those things, so I think just us keeping our focus and knowing this is what we have coming up will get us through it.”
Texas Tech comes into this game with a unique situation for the Cyclones.
The Lady Raiders have a new head coach this season and a completely different system from what Fennelly in his staff have seen in the past eight games against Texas Tech, seven of which were wins.
The only constant for the team that didn’t change was the play of Vivian Gray and Lexi Gordon.
The pair of players are both averaging over 18 points per game for Texas Tech and managed to score 46 of the teams 74 points on Wednesday night in a loss to Oklahoma.
“They’re really good scorers,” Fennelly said. “They run a lot of good stuff for them. They get them shots where they want shots and if you look at all of their numbers, they’ve been good no matter who they’ve played. They’re both capable of putting 30 on you, so you’d better be ready to guard.”
Iowa State has had plenty of time to rest and prepare for this one and they’ll finally take the court in Lubbock on Sunday afternoon.
Until then, they’ll try to keep it simple.
“You really have to kind of not overthink it,” Fennelly said. “We’ll keep our scouting report short and really focus on ourselves. It’s kind of like an early season game.”