Cyclones ready for ranked Cy-Hawk matchup

Head Coach Bill Fennelly talks to the Cyclones during a timeout in the second half against West Virginia on Feb. 24 at Hilton Coliseum. 

Aaron Hickman

Cy-Hawk week is here for the No. 15 Iowa State women’s basketball.

After some fireworks in Sunday’s wrestling dual, the women’s basketball programs will take their turn Wednesday night.

“I don’t plan to go into the other team’s huddle or bench at any point during the game, and I don’t think Lisa [Bluder] will come into ours,” Iowa State Head Coach Bill Fennelly joked.

This year’s matchup doesn’t need any extra shenanigans to have all the makings of a classic.

With both programs ranked in the top-15 nationally (Iowa at No. 12 and Iowa State at No. 15), this season’s edition is sure to have plenty of households tuned in outside the state of Iowa, as well.

The last matchup between the in-state rivals saw Iowa win 82-80, outscoring Iowa State 26-7 in the fourth quarter and coming back from a deficit as high as 18 points.

Despite losing in five straight meetings at the hands of the Hawkeyes, Fennelly assured that he doesn’t pay much attention to that particular storyline.

“It’s different than football,” Fennelly said. “There’s only 12 games. They only play on Saturdays. The whole world is critiqued after a football game. We’ve got another game on Sunday, then we’ve got 22 more games after this. Whatever happens Wednesday night, they’re not handing out any trophies. You get bragging rights, and it’s cool for a day or two, but it’s just a different vibe, I think.”

There are plenty of other storylines to chew on, though, with one being Kylie Feuerbach’s return to Hilton Coliseum, this time in an Iowa uniform. Surprisingly, the sophomore joined the rival program after entering the transfer portal following last season.

It’s yet another storyline that Fennelly doesn’t have time to worry about.

“She plays for Iowa,” Fennelly said. “I’m coaching against Iowa. It hasn’t really registered with me. It really hasn’t. I’m worried about our team and what we’re going to do. It is what it is.”

With several players in the matchup growing up in the state of Iowa and attending Cy-Hawk matchups throughout the years, there’s extra pride on the line.

Ashley and Aubrey Joens grew up and went to high school in Iowa City and continued their journeys in Ames.

Aubrey hinted at the importance of the matchup while continuing to convey the team’s overall message.

“Being from Iowa City, I guess it does mean a little bit more,” Aubrey said. “But I think we just need to focus on our game-plan and our team.”

With Maggie Espenmiller-McGraw back in the fold, the Cyclones will have some much-needed depth while Denae Fritz and Nyamer Diew remain out due to injury.

Espenmiller-McGraw said her main goal coming back from injury was to help alleviate those depth concerns.

“We’re kind of low on the guard position right now, so my main goal was just to come back and be as efficient as I could to get them the rest they need,” Espenmiller-McGraw said.

The on-court matchup that will garner much of the attention will be Caitlin Clark against Ashley Joens. The two didn’t disappoint in last year’s matchup, with Clark stuffing the stat sheet to the tune of 34 points, seven rebounds and six assists and Joens tallying 35 points while grabbing 13 rebounds.

So far this season, Clark is averaging 22 points while contributing nearly nine rebounds and eight assists. Joens is averaging over 20 points while grabbing over nine rebounds and shooting 40 percent from beyond the arc.

Stopping Clark is a near-impossible task, and everyone from the players to the coaching staff understands the tough task ahead.

“She’s an amazing player,” Espenmiller-McGraw said. “We grew up playing against each other since we were in fifth grade, I think. She can distribute, shoot, score. She’s tough to guard, but that makes the matchup even more exciting.”

Overall, seeing the rivalry grow during his time at Iowa State has been very rewarding for Fennelly. This will be his 26th time facing the Hawkeyes in his 27th year coaching the Cyclones. They didn’t face each other his first year in Ames.

“Iowa State wasn’t good enough to be on Iowa’s schedule,” Fennelly said. “Now you turn around and see two teams that are in the top-20, and my first game at Iowa State we had 311 people. There’ll be a lot more than that here tomorrow. To see it grow has been fun.”

No. 15 Iowa State and No. 12 Iowa will face-off at 6 p.m. Wednesday in Hilton Coliseum. The game will be broadcast on ESPNU.