Standings in Big 12 surprise onlookers

Matt Gubbels

Only three games into conference play, most predictions for the Big 12 women’s basketball final standings have already gone out the window.

The standings look nothing like many preseason polls. Kansas State, who was picked to finish ninth, is 3-0 with wins at Texas and Texas A&M. Texas A&M and Oklahoma, the conference favorites, are a combined 3-3 in the league.

Junior Nicky Wieben said the results just show how the conference is going to be this season.

“That just shows how up-and-down our conference is,” Wieben said. “On any given night, whatever team comes more prepared to play is going to win.”

Iowa State has probably been through the most up-and-down during its first three games. The Cyclones (12-4, 1-2 Big 12) lost to No. 6 Oklahoma by three at home before winning a double-overtime thriller at Colorado by seven on Sunday. On Wednesday, they traveled to Texas and lost by three.

Iowa State now gets a Nebraska team who is 2-1 in the league, including a win over Texas.

Coach Bill Fennelly doesn’t know what he did to get this kind of an opening schedule.

“Being around as long as I have, I thought I would catch a break,” Fennelly said. “There are no breaks in this league.”

Sophomore Denae Stuckey, who is playing her first season in the Big 12, said she sees now how big a challenge the conference is.

“I know, every game, we are going to have to play every possession and limit our errors,” Stuckey said.

Cyclones finish first quarter of Big 12 Play

After Saturday, the Cyclones will be through their first four of 16 Big 12 games.

With a victory over Nebraska, Iowa State could be a quarter of the way to the magic number of eight conference wins that BCS conference teams shoot for in trying to make the NCAA Tournament.

Three of those games came in the last week and, because the team has only been playing seven players, Fennelly said the coaches have to be careful with how they practice the team, especially with several newcomers who haven’t gone through a schedule this tough.

“A lot of these players have never done it – we have to make sure we understand how to get ready in a short amount of time,” Fennelly said. “We’re playing seven players, and our practices have been brisk but short. We have to continue to be smart about that.”

Wieben said the mental aspect of the fatigue the team experiences from time to time is the toughest part.

“Usually, the day after any game, your body is going to be a little sore, your legs are going to be a little tired,” Wieben said. “You just have to keep moving forward and look forward to the next game.”

Bolte starts Big 12 play with hot streak

Iowa State has one player who has scored at least 20 points in every one of their conference games so far, though her high performance is a bit unexpected.

On a team with no seniors on the active roster, the lone freshman on the team, Kelsey Bolte, has led the team in scoring twice and is averaging 21.3 points per game – third in the Big 12 – in the first three conference games.

Fennelly said her improved play has come from improved practice habits.

“She gives us a boost because she can make some shots,” Fennelly said. “I think it surprised everyone, probably her more than anyone.”