Women's Basketball

WBB: Cyclones look to slow Iowa’s dynamic duo in Top-15 Cy-Hawk game

Maggie Espenmiller-McGraw

When rivals Iowa State and Iowa meet up at Hilton Coliseum on Wednesday (6:00 p.m. CT ESPNU) for a top 15 matchup, Iowa State’s defense will attempt to limit the production of Caitlin Clark and Monika Czinano.

The pair have combined to score 47.1 percent of Iowa’s points this season and have been the Hawkeyes’ top two scorers in four of the team’s six games. The only times they weren’t, Czinano was outscored by a teammate by one and two points, respectively.

Fennelly knows that the two will likely score a few of the points on Wednesday, but that it’s also usually an unsung name that plays hero in these games.

“Czianano is a very good post player,” Fennelly said. “She’s so efficient. You’re not going to stop her from scoring. I think those are the kind of things you learn quickly. It’s about trying to limit the easy touches. We’ve talked about not fouling because they’re a team that hits a lot of their free throws. We can only take away (what we can). You can’t shut somebody out in basketball.”

It goes back to the game-winner that now senior Tomi Taiwo hit for Iowa her freshman season. Kathleen Doyle hit 10 free throws in 2019 en route to a team-high 21 points the last time the pair played at Hilton Coliseum.

The exception in the five-game streak Iowa has in beating the Cyclones – which ties a series high – was the go-ahead 3-pointer that Clark made last year in Iowa City.

Clark, a sophomore for the Hawkeyes, has garnered national attention much like Iowa State star Ashley Joens to this point in her career. While she’s only shooting 24.9% from the 3-point line (down from 40.6% in 2020-21), Fennelly doesn’t want anything to surprise his team.

“I don’t know that you can really defend (Clark’s) range,” Fennelly said. “You know she is going to shoot it from anywhere. Steph Curry has changed the game as far as not just 3-pointers… it’s just become ridiculous where some of these kids shoot from. She has that kind of range – you’ve got to stretch your defense out a little bit. You just can’t be surprised.”

One of those unsung heroes played for Iowa State as recently as a season ago.

Kylie Feuerbach transferred from Ames to the East side of the state following the 2020-21 season and is currently averaging 5.3 points per game for the Hawkeyes.

She’s, however, not the focus of the staff at Iowa State.

“She plays for Iowa,” Fennelly said. “We’re coaching against Iowa. It hasn’t really registered with me. I’m worried about my team and what we’re going to do.”

From Iowa State’s perspective, the team will try to focus on the game like they usually do. It’s simply the next 40 minutes.

Following the game plan and knocking down open looks as Aubrey Joens has done as of late.

“We just need to focus on it like it’s another game,” Joens said. “Being from Iowa City, it means a little more, but we need to focus on our team. We just need to focus on guarding (to our gameplan), knowing their personnel, keeping them off of the boards and just knocking down our shots.”

Iowa State will get some extra help on Wednesday that they haven’t had since prior to the trip to Florida.

Maggie Espenmiller-McGraw has returned from her injury to give the Cyclones – a team that routinely plays with four guards on the floor – a fifth body to take up minutes.

“I’m feeling good,” Espenmiller-McGraw said. “I think my main goal coming back this early was just to help out the guards and be the best teammate I can be to get them the breaks that they need. They’re playing lots of minutes and I just want to be as efficient as I can be.”

Expect the former Southeast Polk star to sub in a couple of minutes before a media timeout to give a player here and there a minute or two of rest leading into a bit of a break in the action.

She’ll only tally somewhere around 10 minutes and isn’t expected to be 100 percent of the player she was prior to her injury just yet, but it will provide a major boost in the depth department for a team missing another pair of guards to their own injuries.

Fennelly, in more words, said it simply – let Ashley Joens draw attention and capitalize on the space that gives the team on offense.

“The biggest thing is, defensively, we’re really good as far as attention-to-detail goes with our scouting reports,” Fennelly said. “(We) can make people take some tough shots. All of our kids can rebound. We can get out, push the ball, and spread the court… Ashley Joens draws so much attention and I think that opens it up a lot. There’s a lot of open shots that (we’re) going to get because they’re all chasing No. 24. Usually, when that happens, we can get some good looks. We just have to hope we make them because we’re going to shoot them.”

That’s the key for Iowa State to break the longest losing streak in Cy-Hawk history.

The only thing left to do is see how the next 40 minutes play out on Wednesday night.