Cyclones reach dog days of schedule

Jeremy Gustafson

For the first time ever, both Iowa State and Drake will be ranked in the Associated Press Top 25 when both teams step onto the court tonight in Des Moines.

The Cyclones (No. 5) last played on Nov. 27 at Creighton, which like Drake plays in the Missouri Valley Conference. Iowa State scored a last-second escape from the Bluejays and won’t be taking Drake (No. 24) lightly tonight.

“We’re expecting a much better team,” ISU head coach Bill Fennelly said. “Without question, this is the toughest game we’ve had up to this point.”

Drake will be expecting a much better game, too; far from last year’s contest when the Cyclones jumped out to a 17-0 lead and ambushed the Bulldogs 88-58 in Hilton Coliseum.

“I’m sure that’s something they’ve discussed a lot,” Fennelly said of last season’s blowout. “Obviously, we’re not 30 points better than them. They just had one of those nights that all coaches fear.”

The Bulldogs return the bulk of last year’s lineup, including center Carla Bennett.

The highly touted Bennett is averaging 17.5 points per game and 6.5 rebounds.

Along with Bennett, four seniors will round out the starting lineup for Drake.

These include forwards Erin Richards and Molly Nelson along with guards Stephanie Schmitz and Jayme Anderson. Richards is second on the team with 14.5 ppg.

“This is a year they’ve really built for,” Fennelly said. “They have all the ingredients, all the pieces to the puzzle.”

The Cyclones will counter with their `Big Three’, center Angie Welle and guards Tracy Gahan and Lindsey Wilson.

Wilson leads the team with 20 ppg and is averaging 6.5 assists. Welle and Gahan are two-three respectively in scoring with 19.8 and 15.0. They also average 16.3 rebounds between them.

Throw in Mary Cofield’s 9 ppg and 6.3 rebounds and the solid play of Kelly Cizek and Iowa State is prepared for the Bulldogs’ best shot.

“I think it’s all about proving something,” Gahan said. “Proving that you are number five or proving that you deserve to be in the top 25 or whatever it is.

We know every time we go someplace it’s going to be one of their biggest games of the year.”

Fennelly feels the next two weeks will be a good proving ground for the Cyclones. During that span they play five games in 10 days, including Iowa on Dec. 12.

“The next two weeks are really important,” Fennelly said. “It’s the last two weeks of classes. This is a tough time of year for a student-athlete. You got a lot of work to do in the classroom. You got to dig in when you’re a little bit tired.”

The Cyclones will begin their run at 7 tonight. in the Knapp Center.