Cyclones upbeat in midst of slide

Jeremy Gustafson

Staying upbeat in the midst of their recent slump may be the most challenging obstacle for No. 14 Iowa State.

But Thursday the mood was light after practice with players singing while shooting free throws and shouting encouragement during endurance drills.

Another good sign for the Cyclones, who are 2-5 in the Big 12 Conference and 14-5 overall, was sophomore guard Erica Junod running up and down the floor.

Junod is recovering from a torn anterior cruciate ligament suffered in November and appears to be on the fast track to a return to the court.

“Ultimately, that’s my goal,” Junod said. “Right now the way it’s progressing, there’s a good chance [of a comeback]. It kind of depends on when I start doing basketball stuff and things like that. Right now, I have no idea.”

For now she is just satisfied being able to run again.

“Every little step is so exciting,” Junod said. “When they told me I could start running, I was like `Yes’ then I completely over did it and was out because I was sore.”

ISU head coach Bill Fennelly said that with the resilience that Junod has shown, he wouldn’t expect anything less than a comeback.

“I’d be surprised if she didn’t play,” he said. “If there’s a kid that will come back to play, it will be her.”

Junod said that fear of a re-injury hasn’t been a factor in her decision to possibly return.

“From day one, I wanted to come back,” Junod said. “I’m not going to work this hard to come back and play tentative.”

Iowa State could use her. The Cyclones have dropped two in a row after falling 86-73 to No. 20 Colorado Wednesday.

“I think we were really, really frustrated last week and now,” ISU point guard Lindsey Wilson said. “Nobody is used to losing this much. We just have to turn it around and decide we’re gonna do it.”

Wilson led the Cyclones with 23 points against the Buffaloes and is averaging 20.1 points a game.

Colorado was able to hold ISU All-American center Angie Welle to 12 points, almost eight below her average, partly due to foul trouble. Welle is averaging 19.8 points and a team-high 10.6 rebounds a game.

“Personally, I think it’s got to be leadership issue,” Welle said. “I feel like I need to be taking over a little bit more than I have been in the past.”

Welle will likely take over the ISU all-time scoring title from Megan Taylor on Saturday at Nebraska. She needs 17 points to surpass Taylor’s 1,866.

“Maybe it’s something I’ll look back on when I’ve graduated and am trying to live in the glory days,” she said. “Right now, I don’t even care. I have no idea if I’m 40 points away or 100 points away. It’s an honor, but I think it just means I’m shooting the ball a lot.”

Iowa State will be more focused on getting back on a winning streak.

“Just to keep our spirits up, it’s going to be an emotional game,” Wilson said.

The Cornhuskers have been off since Jan. 19 after beating Kansas and have a 2-4 conference record (12-7 overall).

“I think it is important that we go over there and play with a great sense of purpose,” Fennelly said. “A little bit of a sense of urgency doesn’t hurt either.”

The Cyclones and Huskers tip off at 1 p.m. in Lincoln.