Iowa State hopes to snap its first losing streak of the season against Oklahoma

Coach Bill Fennelly argues a call by the referees during the game on Jan. 12. The Cyclones lost to the Longhorns 62-64.

Spencer Suckow

In a season that’s mostly been a success thus far, the Iowa State women are in the midst of a rare rough patch.

The Cyclones are in the middle of their first losing streak of the season after dropping their last two games against Texas and West Virginia. While both teams are certainly tough opponents, with the Longhorns ranked No. 11 in the country and the Mountaineers holding one of the better home court advantages in the Big 12, Iowa State players and coaches aren’t feeling good about letting two winnable games slip away.

The common denominator in both losses was poor shooting, and if the Cyclones are going to right the ship going forward, the team knows that they’ll have to start knocking down shots.

“You can’t feel sorry for yourself,” said head coach Bill Fennelly. “We’ve lost two close games to two good teams. Unfortunately it was the two worst shooting nights of the year for us back-to-back and that’s the nature of this league, it’s life. No one is going to feel sorry for us.”

Luckily for Iowa State, season-long trends seem to indicate that this stretch of poor shooting won’t last much longer. The team has shot above 45 percent from the field for most of the season, so it seems likely that the team’s recent stretch of shooting in the low 30’s will end soon enough. 

For the team’s sake, they better hope it does. Starting on Saturday, the Cyclones enter a crucial three-game stretch that will likely show whether or not Iowa State is ready to contend at the top of the Big 12. Following its home game against Oklahoma Saturday, the team will play two straight road games against No. 2 Baylor and Oklahoma State.

The Cyclones are fully aware that Baylor is, and has been, the top dog in the Big 12, and that the game will serve as a measuring stick for the team. However, players were adamant about not looking past 5-10 Oklahoma on Saturday, as they know that the Sooners will be motivated playing against a suddenly struggling opponent.

“You never want to have a three-game losing streak, no matter what’s ahead,” said senior forward Bridget Carleton. “Obviously Baylor is a great team, but our focus is on Oklahoma right now. They’re young and full of energy, so we have to be the mature team and make the right decisions.”

While the Sooners currently own the Big 12’s only losing record, Fennelly was quick to point out Oklahoma’s youth and level of competition as reasons that the Sooners are better than what their record indicates. Oklahoma played a brutal non-conference slate, but proved they can hang with the best after keeping pace with No. 2/3 UConn for an entire game.

“I think their record is pretty deceiving. They’ve played a monster schedule,” Fennelly said. “[Oklahoma head coach Sherri Coale]’s teams are always the same. They play the game the right way, they play with great enthusiasm and they’re very, very talented.”

Even with the praise, the Cyclones are clearly the more talented and experienced team on paper, and have the added advantage of playing at home. However, if Iowa State does look past Oklahoma, the Sooners have the scorers to make them pay.  

The Sooners have three players averaging double figures in points per game, and have arguably the conference’s best freshman in guard Taylor Robertson, who averages over 17 points per game. If Iowa State has another off day shooting and Robertson gets hot, the Cyclones could find themselves in an uncomfortable position quickly.

That’s why players and coaches repeatedly emphasized the importance of mental toughness going into Saturday’s game. The team knows that if it plays timid after a couple of rough games, any Big 12 team is capable of beating them and a once promising season can go south quickly.

“I think it’s more so the mental part of it, which coach [Fennelly] has been stressing since the Texas game,” said senior guard Alexa Middleton. “We’ve got to be mentally tough going into this game and really focus on our game plan and what we have to do to get this win.”