Slowing down OSU’s Riley key to Cyclone win

Matt Gubbels

There is a dilemma that nine teams in the Big 12 which have played the Oklahoma State Cowgirls have tried – and failed – to resolve.

That problem is slowing down Oklahoma State’s Big 12 Player of the Year candidate, sophomore guard Andrea Riley. The Cyclones (15-8, 4-6 Big 12) will be next to attempt the task when they travel to Stillwater, Okla., to take on the 15th-ranked Cowgirls (19-3, 7-2 Big 12) on Sunday.

Riley is averaging 22.9 points and 4.3 assists per game, leading her team in scoring in 15 out of their 22 games going into their Thursday night tilt at Texas Tech. Since Big 12 play has started, Riley has picked up her game even more, scoring 26 points per game.

Coach Bill Fennelly said Riley has emerged as one of the premier guards in the country.

“Her coming onto campus really changed their program,” Fennelly said. “She is what you want in a point guard.”

“We have to do a good job of not letting her explode on us, but you’re not going to stop her from scoring,” Fennelly said.

Freshman guard Kelsey Bolte said Riley’s multitude of skills is what makes her so tough to stop.

Riley has shown her ability to explode in several games this season. She scored 45 points against the Oklahoma Sooners, when the Cowgirls beat the Sooners by 19, and has had three other 30-plus-point games.

“That will be a big task for us,” Bolte said. “She’s got quickness, she can shoot from the outside, or she can drive on you.”

Even though Riley has slumped a bit lately, shooting 13-44 from the floor and 4-20 from three-point range in Oklahoma State’s last two games, her teammates have been able to pick her up. The Cowgirls had at least five players in double figures in wins over Baylor and Nebraska, both of which are in the top half of the conference.

Fennelly said the emergence of Riley’s teammates has made Oklahoma State that much tougher.

“Everyone really thought that if you stop her, you stop their team,” Fennelly said. “They scored 92 against Nebraska and scored 77 against Baylor – those are numbers that we can’t even fathom right now.”

Last season, Iowa State did hold Riley to a season-low three points, but shot only 29 percent, and Riley’s teammates made just enough shots to pick up a 45-44 win after Heather Ezell missed a layup at the buzzer. The Cyclones experienced a similar 45-42 loss Wednesday at home against Kansas State in which they shot only 32 percent from the field and 19 percent from three-point territory.

“Our shooting percentages weren’t that great, so a lot of us are coming in and shooting a little bit extra,” junior forward Amanda Nisleit said. “We know we need to hit our open shots and work to create more shots.”

After taking on the Cowgirls, the Cyclones will travel to College Station to play Texas A&M on Wednesday and face 8th-ranked Baylor in Ames on Saturday. This is the second three-game week Iowa State has played, but junior Nicky Wieben was available during the first two games of the first stretch.

“We’re going to have to step up, and hopefully we can surprise some people this week,” Bolte said.

Fennelly said this upcoming week might be one of the toughest weeks his teams have experienced, especially with the injury situation.

“We have to keep playing as hard as we have been on defense, and ultimately someone has to make a shot,” Fennelly said. “We just have to have one of those nights where everyone makes a shot and gets it going.”