At the start of February, Iowa State went 1-3 during a four-game stretch in the heart of the Big 12 season. It involved dropping back-to-back games to the top two teams in the standings as well as a tough shooting night against Oklahoma in another loss.
On Saturday, though, the Cyclones will have a shot to fight their way back into the race as they face Oklahoma State on the road (1:00 p.m. CT).
“Obviously, we’re excited to be guaranteed in the top five,” Iowa State coach Bill Fennelly said. “We know how big it is and what an opportunity it is. It’s fun to play big games late in the year. We’re going to Oklahoma State and West Virginia back-to-back – two teams that are right above you in the standings. We know what it’s about, but we haven’t discussed that with our kids.”
The Cyclones come into the game at 14-8 on the season along with a 10-5 record in the Big 12, one loss behind OSU’s 12-4 record in-conference.
Iowa State got the win in the first matchup between the two teams back in January, pulling away late from the Cowgirls in a 90-80 win.
“I don’t know that it feels bigger,” Fennelly said. “I think with our team, this is a year where we haven’t said one word to them about the standings. It is strictly, ‘control what we can today.’”
In the January 13 matchup, Oklahoma State’s Natasha Mack lead her team in scoring, putting up 34 points against the Cyclones.
Saturday’s game is likely to look different, though, as Iowa State was without star post player Kristin Scott in the first matchup. The Cyclones hope Scott’s presence will limit Mack offensively.
“It will be a little bit different,” Fennelly said. “(Scott) will play, she didn’t play the first one. (Espenmiller-McGraw) won’t play, she did play the first one. There lineup is a little bit different. I don’t think it will be a 90-80 game. Both teams were really good on offense and lacked what we think we should be on defense.”
Iowa State has also seen a surge on the offensive side of the ball in recent games.
Freshman Lexi Donarski has scored 20 points in each of her last two appearances, while Scott has reached double-digits in six of the past seven.
That’s without mentioning leading scorer Ashley Joens, but the Cyclones want to continue to spread the ball around this weekend.
“Obviously (Joens) is a tremendous player and one of the best in the country, but basketball is a five-on-five game,” Fennelly said. “She’s had monster games and we’ve lost. The goal is to get other players involved. All the kids that we put out there have that ability, and we’re going to need it wherever this team goes, not just Saturday.”
If the Cyclones come out of Stillwater with a win on Saturday, they’ll control their own destiny as a top-3 seed in the Big 12 Tournament in March.
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