Women’s basketball notebook: Iowa State to take on top 20 teams

Matt Gubbels

Business has definitely picked up for the ISU women’s basketball team.

The Cyclones have won two in a row – and three out of four – games but they now get the dubious pleasure of playing four straight top-20 teams.

Coach Bill Fennelly said Iowa State’s next three opponents, No. 17 Kansas State, No. 8 Baylor and No. 18 Oklahoma State, are all legitimate Big 12 championship contenders and that the fourth opponent, No. 20 Texas A&M, is playing as well as anyone in the league.

“You get caught up in playing four ranked teams in a row, but when you do that, you really have to narrow your focus and be ready to go for the next one,” Fennelly said.

Sophomore point guard Alison Lacey echoed Fennelly’s sentiment.

“It’s going to be tough, but we have to take it one step at a time,” Lacey said. “We’re focusing on K-State right now. Hopefully we can get a win here and then move on to the next game.”

A team has faced four ranked teams in a row only 11 times before in the Big 12’s 12-year history, and Iowa State accounts for three of those occurrences. One of those time was the Cyclones’ run to the Big 12 Tournament Championship and subsequent NCAA Tournament appearance in 2001-2002.

Junior guard Heather Ezell said this stretch is not any different from the four games before it.

“It’s just coming out and playing our basketball, doing the little things and not making mistakes and just playing forty minutes of our basketball,” Ezell said.

Fennelly said his team is looking at the stretch as more of an opportunity than a negative.

“You have to go in with a belief that you have a plan that can win, and you have to go into the game with the mindset that there is nothing better and brings you more attention than beating a ranked team,” Fennelly said. “We’ve had our fair share of victories over ranked teams over the years, and hopefully this team can add a couple to that list.”

Riding the first winning streak of the year

Iowa State enters this stretch after doing something they had not done since the calendar turned to 2008.

Last week’s wins over Texas Tech and Missouri were the Cyclones’ first of the new year.

The last time the Cyclones won consecutive games was when they swept Bowling Green, Tennessee-Martin, and Hampton to win their own tournament, the American Family Insurance Cyclone Shoot-Out, from Dec. 28-30.

Lacey said the team is playing much more confident after the wins.

“We were kind of down before that, especially losing at [Kansas State] and [Kansas],” Lacey said. “I think the last two games really boosted our confidence and, hopefully, we continue that.”

Team settles into roles and rotation

One of the reasons the Cyclones have been playing well may be that, for the first time all season, the team has settled into a steady rotation and lineup.

“It took till the middle of February to get there,” Fennelly said. “I think our team, both individually and collectively, has caught their breath – they can step back and say ‘this is what is going to happen, this is who is going to play, and this is what we’re going to do.'”

One of the players that epitomizes what Fennelly said and has really started to flourish is junior center Jocelyn Anderson. Anderson averaged 14.5 points, 6.5 rebounds, and 3.5 blocks in the two victories last week.

Lacey said everyone is just feeling more comfortable and they hope to continue that against Kansas State.

“I think everyone knows their roles now and everyone is trying to step up and have a good game every night; Joc is the best example I can give,” Lacey said. “She has a lot of pressure on her, and she stepped up.”