The Cyclones look to carry momentum into matchup against red-hot Cowgirls


Daniel Jacobi II

Ashley Joens attempts a free throw during the game against Texas in Hilton Coliseum on Feb. 13, 2023

The Cyclones are looking to continue adding to their momentum as they travel to Stillwater, Oklahoma, Wednesday to take on a red-hot Oklahoma State team.

Iowa State was able to control its downward spiral, ending a three-loss streak with a big home win over Texas. After failing to pull out a win in all three meetings last season, the Cyclones powered past the Longhorns thanks to a strong Hilton crowd.

The week wasn’t done there for the Cyclones, as they traveled to Waco, Texas, to take on another Achilles heel for them in Baylor. A thrilling contest ended in double overtime, as the Cyclones claimed victory on the heels of another dominating night from Ashley Joens and company.

“I think everyone’s energy changed and flipped and we realized that we need to get back on pace of winning,” Denae Fritz said.

The three-loss streak lit a fire under the Cyclones, and the team looked completely different following the tough road loss to West Virginia. The Sunday following the loss, the team got back to Ames around midnight and went right to work in just over 12 hours.

The practice went so well that any confidence the team might have lost came flooding back. Enough to put on a show at Hilton.

“You can just tell,” Iowa State head coach Bill Fennelly said. “I’ve done this long enough where you can tell when a group is engaged, and they show up, and they weren’t pouting, they weren’t feeling sorry for themselves. It was like, hey, you gotta do what you gotta do, and they did it.”

With their losing streak in the past, the Cyclones had a newfound confidence going into their matchup with Baylor. Last season, Baylor was one of two teams to sweep Iowa State.

After avoiding a sweep against Texas, the Cyclones just needed to get a win on Baylor’s home turf to do the impossible and not get swept by any team in the Big 12: a feat that hadn’t been done in Iowa State history.

The Cyclones had only ever won twice in Waco, so the challenge was as big as it could get. That didn’t stop them from giving everything they had to take down the Bears in what turned out to be a battle of attrition.

“I think this last week has just showed how much we’ve came together to realize how good we are and how capable we are of beating really good teams,” Fritz said. “We can beat anybody. We just have to show up every night and stay connected.”

Fennelly attributed the success against Baylor to the fact that the two teams faced off recently before the rematch just two weeks prior. Whatever it was, the Cyclones turned it on when it mattered most to finish off a perfect week of basketball.

With the Baylor win in the books, the Cyclones were able to check off the last win they needed to complete the task of not getting swept by any team in the Big 12.

“No team has ever done that here,” Joens said. “So just to be able to do that, I mean not many people will know that we did that, but we know we did it. We can use that as our confidence and help motivate us to continue forward.”

With just four games left in the season, it will be a sprint to the end for the Cyclones, as they look to finish strong and be in the best position they can be in entering the postseason.

Finishing with a good record will be crucial for the Cyclones’ chances at playing the opening rounds of the NCAA tournament in Ames. The home-court advantage may be a benefit, but Fennelly wants the team to continue to focus on themselves and not look into what everyone is saying about them.

“Before the three-game losing streak: ‘Wow, Iowa State women’s basketball is pretty good.’ During the three-game losing streak: ‘They suck,’” Fennelly said. “And now we’re good again. That’s the world we live in. It’s okay.”

Going forward, the team is looking at the next 40 minutes. That happens to be 40 minutes against a team that looks unstoppable as of late.

Oklahoma State is on a five-win streak going into Wednesday. Both teams are also tied in the Big 12 standings at 9-5.

“We might be playing maybe not the best team in the league, but certainly the hottest team in the league on Wednesday,” Fennelly said.

The thing that makes Oklahoma State so tough to take down currently is the scoring output. The Cowgirls fall just behind Oklahoma scoring, while leading the league in field goal and three-point shooting percentage.

Iowa State has a good defense, but with the scoring monster that Oklahoma State has become in recent weeks, it could be the case that an unstoppable object meets an immovable wall. The Cyclones were able to get the better of the Cowgirls in their last meeting, but that was at Hilton.

“They have a lot of kids who can score,” Fennelly said. “They’re playing with a lot of confidence. They won a triple-overtime game on Saturday on the road.”

Oklahoma State is coming off a road win against Texas Tech that went into triple overtime. Iowa State is coming off a similar win, so it could be a toss-up whether either team has more momentum than the other.

“I think we just need to focus on the next 40 minutes,” Fritz said. “At the end of the day, that’s all that matters.”

Iowa State will be back in action on the road against Oklahoma State at 6:30 p.m. Wednesday in Stillwater, Oklahoma. The game will be streamed live on ESPN+.