Kansas’ size could be concerning, Iowa State still confident


Daniel Jacobi II

Morgan Kane attempts a three during the game against TCU in Hilton Coliseum on Feb. 25, 2023.

Coming off a dominating win over TCU, the Cyclones are entering their last week of the regular season with high hopes of what lies ahead.

The Cyclones have been on a roll as the season comes to a close, taking down Texas and Baylor, both tough matchups for the Cyclones. They did drop a game on the road to Oklahoma State, but the momentum Oklahoma State had at that point was enough to take down nearly any team in the conference.

With just two Big 12 games left to play, Iowa State is looking to finish the season out with a pair of sweeps. With the Big 12 tournament coming up, wins are more important than ever, and seeding could be the difference between a deep run or a first-round exit.

Avoiding a sweep against every Big 12 team is a good thing for the Cyclones going forward. However, they didn’t sweep many teams either. Iowa State head coach Bill Fennelly has looked at what could be in store for the future and seems to be fine with any matchup that could present itself.

“I don’t know that there’s any team that you’d be like, ‘oh, we have to stay away from them,’” Fennelly said. “Because if you look at our schedule, we’ve split with almost everyone. So it’s like, who do you wanna play or who do you not wanna play.”

No matter who the Cyclones play, there’s no doubt that it will be a competitive Big 12 tournament from start to finish. The Big 12 has been a tough conference to get wins for any team, and the cannibalistic nature of the conference could be good practice for what’s in store for the remainder of the postseason.

Fennelly talked about how the competitiveness of the Big 12 championship will end up being a good simulation for the first and second rounds of the NCAA tournament.

Although the Cyclones are aware of what the future holds, they are more focused on the final regular season opponents in front of them. The first opponent comes in a road matchup to Kansas, a team who plays at Iowa State’s weaknesses.

“We’re really just focused on winning the next game at hand,” Lexi Donarski said. “I don’t think any of us are too focused on the stuff all the way in the future.”

The Cyclones got the better of Kansas in the last matchup, as they cruised to a 64-50 win at home. The home-court advantage could have been a factor, but there’s no doubt that the Cyclone defense locked down the Jayhawks all night.

Playing at Kansas might prove to be a different story. Kansas’ best player was still dominant in the last matchup, and she hasn’t gone anywhere.

“One thing that we struggle with is size, and they have a 6’6” center,” Fennelly said. “That’s a big problem, literally and figuratively.”

Kansas has a 6-foot-6 true center in Taiyanna Jackson, who went off for 13 points and 15 rebounds in the last matchup at Hilton Coliseum.

To deal with the size difference between the teams, Izzi Zingaro got the most playtime she’s seen all season. Zingaro was impactful on both ends of the floor, putting up 11 points and six rebounds.

However, since that game, Zingaro hasn’t seen the court nearly as much. Small ball has worked against a large number of Iowa State’s Big 12 opponents, but Kansas may be a game decided by size.

Ideally, the Cyclones would still have their own 6-foot-6 center in Stephanie Soares. She would have been the size to help them match up better with Kansas, even if they didn’t need her in the last game.

“I wish I could say I’ve moved on, but I haven’t,” Fennelly said. “And really not for the sake of what you would think. Every time I see her there’s a part of me that just feels really bad for her.”

Soares may go down as the biggest what-ifs in Cyclones history, as she was one pace for a monstrous season. In her short stint on the court, Soares was averaging a double-double with 14.4 points and 10 rebounds, while still being a threat from beyond the arc.

Soares had one more shot to make a big impact on the college basketball world, and it looked like she was going to do it. However, injuries are a part of the game and a big injury took Soares’ one chance away.

The Cyclones have done just fine without Soares, as they reverted back to a familiar identity, with the lineup being nearly the same as last season. The Cyclones did what they could without Soares and still made waves in the Big 12.

Iowa State still looks to have some momentum from its successful week against Texas and Baylor, despite the loss to an Oklahoma State team who had been terrorizing the Big 12 for weeks.

Kansas on the other hand was coming off three straight losses before taking down the Cowgirls on Sunday. Both teams have the momentum to make their matchup as competitive as possible.

“They’re a really talented team,” Donarski said. “They’re definitely tough to guard, and it should be a fun game.”

The Cyclones take on their last road challenge of the regular season against Kansas at 7 p.m. on Wednesday, in Lawrence, Kansas. The game will be streamed live on ESPN+.