Iowa State is gearing up to face No. 2 Texas A&M for a trip to its first Sweet 16 since 2010.
It’ll take a good showing from Bill Fennelly’s team, but don’t be surprised if the Cyclones make a game out of it on Wednesday night (6:00 p.m. CT ESPN2).
Iowa State will have to execute, though.
“They remind me a lot of Texas and Baylor,” coach Bill Fennelly said of Texas A&M. “They’re long, athletic. They rebound the ball really well. They’ll beat you off the bounce, and then defensively Gary (Blair’s) teams are always really good.”
The Aggies come into the game with a 24-2 record and the SEC Regular Season championship.
They narrowly escaped the first round after No. 15 Troy overcame a 16-point deficit and entered the final two minutes tied.
“I think it’s a credit to Troy,” Fennelly said. “They kept playing, and that’s the nature of this tournament. If something isn’t working, you’d better figure out something else. Troy made it a game and got to the rim a bit. I don’t think it translates to us, but it does show what this tournament is about. In that regard, it’s a good example for our team.”
Troy was 4-23 from the 3-point line in the game, along with 18 turnovers and 77 shot attempts through the night.
If anything, there’s a message that the game isn’t over until it’s over, something that any team playing in March can relate to.
According to Fennelly, Texas A&M has a couple of big strengths to their game: offensive rebounding and getting to the free-throw line.
“They are plus-7 at the free-throw line (on their opponents),” Fennelly said. “That’s a huge number in college basketball. When you go into the game a touchdown behind, you’ve got to figure that out.”
Avoiding fouls will be a big key in its own right.
Ashley Joens missed out on 11 minutes of basketball in the first round due to foul trouble, and still managed to net 33 points against Michigan State.
The Cyclones will need that out of Joens again, without the two fouls in the first half, though.
As for the offensive rebounding, Iowa State doesn’t yet know the status of senior post player Kristin Scott.
The Minnesota native has been battling injuries and could be called questionable at best for Wednesday.
“We’re hoping to get some minutes out of Kristin (Scott), but we don’t know,” Fennelly said. “We’ve talked about it. We’ve got to get to 200 minutes. Scott played 23 minutes last night – that means we’ve got to get those 23 minutes. Morgan Kane might have to play more, our guards might play more, or Izzi (Zingaro) might get in the game. We’ll figure it out.”
Whether they have Scott or not, the Cyclones will try and execute against one of the top teams in the nation.
It’ll be one of their toughest tasks yet.
“They’re 24-2 for a reason,” Fennelly said. “They’re a team that a lot of people picked to win this whole thing, but I think our kids are really excited about the challenge.”