Iowa State faces first road test against in-state rival Northern Iowa


Tyler Coe

Stephanie Soares attempts to shoot a basketball against Southern on Nov. 10

The No. 7 Cyclones have their first road test ahead as they prepare to take on Northern Iowa in Cedar Falls, Iowa, Wednesday.

Last season’s final in-state opponent will now be the first in-state rival on Iowa State’s plate. The Panthers gave the Cyclones struggles in a near-road bump in an otherwise historic season.

Any time the Cyclones take on a fellow Iowa team, fans are in for a competitive, hard-fought game. UNI came close, but Iowa State finished the day on top last season, winning 70-69.

“They’re three of the toughest games on our schedule; when you play these in-state games, especially on the road,” Iowa State head coach Bill Fennelly said. “You know, they’re always very well prepared. They’re gonna play hard. They’re not gonna beat themselves, and that’s the nature of this game.”

Although it is still early in the season, it will be a battle of the undefeated in Cedar Falls, as UNI boasts a 2-0 record, the same as Iowa State. The Panthers also finished with an impressive 23-11 record last season.

Fennelly knows what’s at stake and sees the challenge ahead of the team. Northern Iowa isn’t a pushover, and the Cyclones will do what they can to come out with a win.

“They prepare for us as good as anyone,” Fennelly said. “So you’re gonna have to be able to run your offense and know what the counter is.”

The name of the game Wednesday night will be adapting. If the Cyclones want to succeed through the entire season, they will have to adapt to whatever is thrown at them.

Shooting wasn’t going their way against Southern, so the Cyclones changed their game plan and figured out other ways of putting points on the board. That same tenacity will come into play in big games throughout the season, as the rim appears bigger on some nights rather than others.

We got to find those little things and make a free throw, make a layup, be willing to do a good job in special situations,” Fennelly said. “Adjust to the game.”

Another challenge with facing the Panthers in their domain will be the lack of Hilton Magic in the air. It’s no shocker that Iowa State plays better at home, but that won’t factor into the outcome of Wednesday’s game.

“I’ve said many times, we have a really hard schedule,” Fennelly said. “Most of the really good games we play are not at Hilton.”

When the Big 12 season rolls around, home games will become more scarce, and being able to play well on the road will be a factor in the success of the Cyclones’ season.

Although the trek might not be too far for many Iowa State fans, the atmosphere will surely favor the Panthers. The players know how much the atmosphere changes the game and what it takes to overcome that.

“Even though we don’t have the 10,000 people behind us, we can still do the little things to help us win,” Emily Ryan said.

At the end of the day, the season is still young, and development will be the big takeaway from the game. Fennelly said that the game’s outcome could give him an idea of where the team is trending for the near future. But for now, the team is focused on the task ahead.

For Fennelly, the game plan going into Wednesday night is simple.

“Do everything you can to keep them from scoring and find a way to get the thing in the basket on your end,” Fennelly said.

The game is set to tip off at 6 p.m. on ESPN+.