Cyclones set for ranked showdown with Hawkeyes


Photo: Tim Reuter/Iowa State Daily

Forward Chelsea Poppens attempts a rebound over Michigan during the game Sunday at Hilton. Poppens lead the team in rebounds with a total of 10.

Dan Tracy

The scoreboard may read 0-0 at the beginning of the in-state match-up between Iowa and Iowa State tonight, but in the annual school-versus-school competition, the Hy-Vee Cy-Hawk series, Iowa leads 7-6.

“The Cy-Hawk series is a great thing for our universities it brings a lot of attention state-wide and we want to do our part for that,” said ISU coach Bill Fennelly.

In the first of a trio of Cy-Hawk events to be held in Iowa City this weekend, the No. 15 Cyclones (6-1) and the No. 19 Hawkeyes (8-1) will square off at Carver-Hawkeye Arena in the 41st edition of the Cy-Hawk rivalry in women’s basketball.

“It’s one of those games I’ve told people over the years that even the casual women’s basketball fan or non-women’s basketball fan who’s an Iowa State fan looks at this game as important,” Fennelly said.

The main storyline coming into most Cy-Hawk matchups is the chance for the Iowa natives on each squad to square off and battle for school pride within the state. Ten Iowa natives fill the rosters between the two teams — five apiece for each team — but the biggest difference between this game and past contests is that for the first time both teams are nationally ranked.

Fennelly sees two programs that are two of the best at each university but doesn’t see the national rankings providing any “extra juice” for his players as they prepare to face the 19th-ranked Hawkeyes.

“I think if you need a reason to have extra juice when you play Iowa, you don’t know what state you live in and you don’t know who you play for I guess,” Fennelly said. “I think it’s a tribute to both schools, both programs that we’ve both worked hard to have a program that their university can be proud of.”

Sophomore forward and Aplington native Chelsea Poppens scored 11 points and grabbed four rebounds in last year’s 85-66 victory for Iowa State over Iowa at Hilton Coliseum.

“The in-state games are the hardest because there’s so much expected and I think this one is going to be one of our toughest ones,” Poppens said.

The Cyclones are coming off a 13-point win over a Big Ten foe in Michigan on Sunday at Hilton Coliseum. The guard play from junior Lauren Mansfield and Kelsey Bolte led the Cyclones against the Wolverines, but Poppens and her fellow post players understand they need to carry more of the load as they begin to face teams with more height such as Iowa.

“I think we’re coming together as a team chemistry-wise and I think us [post players] need to step up a little bit more and release the pressure off the outside,” Poppens said. “Once we do that we’ll be unstoppable hopefully.”

The last time that the Cyclones traveled to Iowa City, in 2008, they left with a 66-46 loss, the only ISU loss in the last five games of the rivalry.

“I think two years ago, to be quite honest, we were totally outplayed and the game plan that I had put into place was absolutely the wrong one,” Fennelly said. “Hopefully we’ll be a little smarter this time.”

The 2010 Hawkeyes return all five starters from a team that ended last season in the second round of the NCAA Tournament with a 96-67 loss to NCAA runner-up Stanford. Leading those returnees has been a talented backcourt with sophomore guard Jaime Printy, who averages 15.6 points per game and pre-season All-Big Ten senior guard Kachine Alexander, who Fennelly called “border-line impossible” to guard, isn’t far behind with 14.4 points per game. The Hawkeyes lone loss on the season came a week ago at No. 14 North Carolina.

ISU sophomore center Anna Prins has seen a tough defensive squad already in the few games of the Hawkeyes 2010 season that she has been able to check out on television. The Hawkeyes are averaging seven steals per game and are only giving up 59.4 points per game to their opponents.

“They definitely guard strong so I think again just holding our own and getting those rebounds so we can score when we can,” Prins said.

Iowa State is 3-1 on the road this season with one win coming against in-state Northern Iowa back on Nov. 21. At that game, Prins saw as many Cyclone fans in the stands in Cedar Falls as she did Panthers fans.

“It’s really encouraging to know that we have fans that stand behind us every game, even when we’re traveling far we know that they’re cheering us on,” Prins said.

The added storyline of both teams being ranked hasn’t added much to its national coverage as the game will only be broadcast throughout Iowa. That’s something that Fennelly recognizes but it won’t affect his approach to the importance of the in-state rivalry.

“Maybe it’s not important to the country and people outside of Iowa, we don’t really care,” Fennelly said. “I want this to be something that’s important to Iowa State people and we’re not going to apologize for that, we want to win in-state games.”

The game against Iowa will be Iowa State’s third game against a ranked opponent this season but the first one played on the U.S. mainland and the first played in Iowa.

“To play a ranked team and to play in this environment is why you come to college and why you play college basketball and why you coach,” Fennelly said. “These are the special moments that you want to be a part of and a win would mean a lot.”

The opening tip is scheduled for 7 p.m.