Iowa State looks to grasp some late-season momentum against Baylor


Tyler Coe

Lexi Donarski runs the Cyclone offense against Texas on Feb. 13, 2023.

AMES — With five Big 12 games left on the schedule, Iowa State is in position to seize a little last-minute momentum to close out the season.

The Cyclones are coming off a win over No. 17 Texas, where they shot 8-15 from the three-point line in a 66-61 win, curbing a potential four-game losing streak. Iowa State follows up the key victory with another crucial matchup against Baylor in Waco, Texas.

Success from behind the arc was the impetus to Iowa State’s turnaround performance, yet it has been a fickle trait for the Cyclones all season. When asked if the team could grasp on to some late shooting momentum, head coach Bill Fennelly kept his answer concise.

“I sure hope so,” Fennelly said.

Bad turnovers and foul trouble aside, one thing has been a constant for the Cyclones ever since losing center Stephanie Soares to an ACL injury in January: if Iowa State can’t shoot then it can’t win.

The Cyclones went 18-76 from behind the arc in their three losses prior to the Texas game. But against the Longhorns, Iowa State improved to a game-defining 53% from three-point range.

“It’s not something that they’ve worried about because our shot selection’s been pretty good,” Fennelly said. “That’s got to continue, because obviously we don’t have the go-to, get the ball on the block kind of kid, so we’re gonna have to continue to make shots and create different ways to get to the free-throw line.”

Even in the amid of a minor shooting slump, the Cyclones were still competitive against Baylor earlier this month. Despite making five of 24 three-point attempts, Iowa State only fell short by two possessions, losing 76-70.

It wasn’t just the shooting but late turnovers and foul trouble that decided the game versus Baylor in early February.

Iowa State committed 15 turnovers against the Bears, while five Cyclones ended with three or more fouls. Eventually, the wheels fell off in the fourth quarter and Iowa State let slip a chance to take down Baylor for the first time in two years.

In preparing for their second meeting this season, the Cyclones have been focusing on limiting live-ball turnovers and improving their ball-screen defense. Plus, the shooting has to be on point.

“For us to try and contend for a championship, a lot of things have to happen, but it happened Monday night, so why not keep going,” Fennelly said.

The Cyclones will have a chance to beat both Texas and Baylor for the first time since the 2019-20 season. Wins like that go a long way in national perception, which is crucial as the team approaches tournament time.

Iowa State is still playing for a chance to host its first two games of the NCAA Tournament, which makes the path to a second consecutive Sweet Sixteen berth a little more straightforward.

Teetering right on the line of a top seed in the tournament, Iowa State has to pull through in some tough road games to close out the season.

“It’s fun to play important games this time of year. I say it a lot, but luckily we’re in that space, and hopefully we understand it and value that and take advantage of it,” Fennelly said.

Iowa State will face Baylor on the road on Saturday at 5 p.m.