Women's Basketball

WBB: Cyclones prepping for new personnel within Creighton’s familiar style

GREENSBORO — When Iowa State and Creighton face off on Friday night (8:30 p.m. CT ESPN2) in the Sweet 16, the Cyclones will see an offensive style that doesn’t stray far from its own.

Creighton plays frequently with four guards on the floor, sometimes even five, it shoots 36.7 percent from distance and ranks third nationally in 3-pointers made per game at 10.2.

Sounds familiar, right?

“It’s similar to Oklahoma,” Fennelly said. “You’re right. I think we went more back to when we played UNI, Drake, South Dakota State. It’s not a style we see a lot in the Big 12 because our league has some really good post players, so you really have to try and find the right match-up.”

The Cyclones have seen similar offenses on multiple occasions this year, with few blemishes to go along with it.

They faced off with the trio of non-conference teams in the early months, skating by with dominant wins aside from a one-point nail-biter with UNI. Not to mention, the team swept Oklahoma in Big 12 play.

It’s difficult, by design, to beat the Cyclones at their own game.

“It is a big part of the way we’ve always played,” Fennelly said. “We work very hard on game shots, game speed kind of thing. We work on it every single day, every single player. A lot of it is the spacing that we work on, our ability to rotate when the ball rotates.

“Obviously, when you have a player of Ashley Joens’ caliber you see a lot of double teams, which opens up the court. It’s something we recruit to and we build daily.”

Iowa State also has the Big 12’s Defensive Player of the Year in Lexi Donarski in its arsenal. That’s helped set it apart from a team that solely relies on shooting.

The sophomore has limited some of the best players in college basketball this season, including Caitlin Clark from Iowa, Baylor’s NaLyssa Smith, Oklahoma’s Taylor Robertson and Texas Tech’s Vivian Gray.

“No, we’re going to use Lex on a lot of different people,” Fennelly said. “I think Lex can defend three or four different people on their team. They don’t have an overwhelming size that she can’t match up with, so we’re going to move her around.”

Donarski is capable of swinging momentum with swift steals or interceptions that she can find along the way, as she did in her team’s Big 12 quarterfinal win over West Virginia.

Emily Ryan brings a lot of help to that, not to take away from her dynamic offensive game at the point guard spot.

“I think, obviously, (Donarski) is someone that we build our defensive game plan around,” Fennelly said. “If someone gets hot, we can move her to another person. I think (Ryan) can do that as well, so (Donarski) will be on a lot of different people throughout the game. I would say at least three.”

Emma Rosnieck leads Creighton in scoring, tallying 14.7 points per game. However, both Morgan Maly and Iowa transfer Lauren Jensen each score in double figures and shoot high percentages from three.

The name on the jersey may not come off as quite as intimidating – and Fennelly won’t let that happen – but this Creighton team is filled with shooters.

“It helps that we have played teams that have a similar offensive style to them,” Donarski said. “We just have to be prepared for their personnel specifically coming into this game.”

Creighton may try and get creative with its offense to counter, but at the same time, the Jays have seen tremendous success this season under coach Jim Flanery.

“They’re going to know what they want to do defensively,” Flanery said. “They’re going to have a plan on who they’re going to leave and who they’re going to focus on more, who they’re going to try to take out of the game. I think they really scheme defensively well. I think Bill (Fennelly) has always done that.”

So much of Friday’s game is familiar to Iowa State, just like it’s felt at times throughout the season.

The constant of focusing on the next 40 minutes will, of course, remain.

“We’ve always been focused on the next game, and we don’t really worry about who that opponent is going to be because we’re focused on the game that’s next for us,” Donarski said.

Don’t think for a second that it will change in the Sweet 16.

The Cyclones are ready to fight their way to the Elite 8.

“They’ve beaten a lot of good teams throughout the season,” Donarski said. “We know that we really need to focus in, buy into our scouting report, and play a good game tomorrow.”