Iowa State looks to continue improvement against Kansas Saturday


Daniel Jacobi II

Maggie Espenmiller-McGraw looks to pass the ball during the game against Oklahoma State in Hilton Coliseum on Jan. 18, 2023.

No. 18 Iowa State will look to grasp some new-found momentum against Kansas Saturday. With the return of head coach Bill Fennelly, the Cyclones aim to take another step forward against a tough Big 12 opponent.

Fennelly missed Wednesday’s matchup versus Oklahoma State following the death of his mother, leaving associate head coach Jodi Steyer to step in for the night. Even without their head coach, the Cyclones pulled through, winning 69-64, as Fennelly watched on TV.

Iowa State made progress in the tight contest against the Cowgirls, and Fennelly wants to maintain the team’s growth following his return.

“I thought Wednesday when I woke up was going to be arguably the worst day I’ve had in a long time, and by 10 o’clock Wednesday night, it ironically turned out to be one of the best,” Fennelly said. “We had a great celebration for my mom and our team and my staff did an amazing job.”

The game saw offensive success from the backcourt, with guards Emily Ryan and Nyamer Diew leading the scoring charge. The Cyclones were comfortable shooting from beyond the arc and were able to create some plays in the paint.

Iowa State has also made progress at the post position, with centers Morgan Kane and Izzi Zingaro settling into their roles. Kane especially had a standout performance against Oklahoma State, and looks to keep improving as the team works its way through the Big 12 schedule.

“With changes in positions come changes in roles, and so it’s just kind of accepting that and filling that role,” Kane said.

Kane was Iowa State’s go-to post player last season, but she saw a reduction in minutes with the addition of center Stephanie Soares. Following Soares’ season-ending ACL tear, Kane has stepped back into the role of Iowa State’s primary big.

She posted a season-high 11 points against Oklahoma State, and she is confident she can continue to improve in her new role.

“It’s easy on the outside saying, ‘alright you just flip the switch and you’re back. But obviously I was filling a different role in the beginning of the season, and so with that shifting comes a little bit of a different mindset,” Kane said.

In his first game back from his absence, Fennelly will lead the charge against Kansas. The Jayhawks will give Iowa State’s defense a challenge in the backcourt, facing guard Holly Kersgieter, who was a first-team All-Big 12 player last season.

Kane will be critical in shutting down center Taiyanna Jackson, who has the potential to give the Cyclones fits down low.

“She’s long, she’s athletic, she blocks shots. When you’re getting 14 rebounds a game, blocking shots and stealing the ball, that’s pretty good,” Fennelly said.

Similar to Oklahoma State, Iowa State will be challenged all throughout the game against Kansas. The Jayhawks’ age and scoring potential will push the Cyclones, but the team will be well-prepared for the battle.

Iowa State is improving, and the Cyclones will look to build upon this week’s progress in the upcoming matchup.

“I feel confident that the last game went really well, and so I’m excited for the upcoming game,” Kane said.

Iowa State will take on Kansas at 5 p.m. Saturday in Hilton Coliseum.