Women's Basketball

WBB: Drake will give Cyclones all they can

While Iowa State delivered a blowout victory over perennial Summit League power South Dakota State on Monday, the Drake Bulldogs were taking on the Jackrabbits’ rival South Dakota.

The Bulldogs got beat by 16 points.

Make no mistake, though. Iowa State isn’t looking past any opponent, let alone one of the three in-state rivals that it plays each and every season alternating between home arenas. Drake and Iowa State square off on Thursday at 6:00 p.m. at the Knapp Center.

“I hear this all the time and I get it, ‘This is a big game for Drake.’ Hell, it’s a big game for Iowa State, too,” coach Bill Fennelly said. “I think our kids understand that. Playing the in-state games, especially the ones on the road, are the toughest on our schedule.”

That’s major praise from the Cyclones’ coach in his 27th year at the helm. He certainly hasn’t forgotten the loss his team took to Drake the last time Iowa State visited the Knapp Center.

Fennelly will gameplan accordingly, and on Thursday night his team will have a size advantage over the Bulldogs.

This could mean more looks at the small-ball, five-guard lineup that sparked the Iowa State offense in the fourth quarter against SDSU.

“I don’t know if we’ll see a lot (of the small ball), but we’ll see it,” Fennelly said. “Obviously, it’s just part of what we do. I think until we get (Beatriz Jordao) back and see where she is, it’ll be a part of (our game).”

Iowa State is still playing its post position on a by-committee basis, and it’s never a bad idea to get the three available players a little extra rest.

In the team’s game on Monday, Morgan Kane logged a majority of the minutes at the 5-spot, while Izzi Zingaro and Maggie Vick combined for just seven.

Fennelly says that this game, like every other one this season, will be different. He wants to take a game-by-game approach while seeing who has the hot hand at the same time.

“We’ll start a post player,” Fennelly said prior to the team’s practice ahead of Thursday’s game. “I don’t know which one yet. That’s just how we’re doing it.”

On the opposite hand of things, the Cyclones have found a constant in the play of standout sophomore Emily Ryan.

As one-third of the sophomore trio that remains from the highest-rated recruiting class in school history, Ryan is letting her play on the court give the Cyclones confidence.

“She’s our Brock Purdy,” Fennelly said. “Teammates trust her, put her in the right spot, gives them a chance to win. There’s a lot of confidence when she has the ball.”

The Kansas native leads the nation in steals, something she attributes to the defensive play of the rest of her teammates.

Going forward, it could be something that steals some games back for the Cyclones, especially on a poor shooting night.

“I think it’s something we’re embracing a lot this year,” Ryan said. “We realize that, with the 3-point line going back, our shots won’t always be falling. Having our defense to fall back on when shots aren’t going in will be really important for us throughout the year.”

Iowa State has another chance to prove it on Thursday night.