Tough road games prepared Iowa State for the tournament season ahead


Maeley Rosengren

Ashley Joens reaching to get 2 more points for the Cyclones during her final game.

It’s tournament time, and the Cyclones are looking to make a run as they start out with a rematch against Baylor on Friday.

The Cyclones are looking for redemption in the Big 12 Tournament, as they ended last year just a hair shy of claiming the Big 12 title. The Cyclones made it to the final game of the tournament but had to face off against a team that had given them nightmares all year: Texas.

Iowa State played its heart out, but Texas was too big of a hurdle to overcome, and the game ended in overtime with Texas becoming Big 12 champs.

“Last year, I thought we played well in the Big 12 Tournament. It was a really tough game against Texas, of course, losing in overtime,” Emily Ryan said. “I thought we played pretty well in that game, and we showed that we can compete in a neutral environment against great competition.”

Going into the 2023 Big 12 Tournament, the Cyclones have much less hype but still have the same goal in mind. They want to win it all.

The first obstacle they have to face if they want to make a deep run is Baylor. Although the Cyclones beat Baylor on the road in their last meeting, they had to grind it out in double overtime to win.

“It’s gonna be a hard game,” Ashley Joens said. “Like we’ve seen all year, the Big 12 is really good. It’s gonna be a tough game, and we’re just gonna have to grind it out to the end.”

Whatever ends up happening, the Cyclones know that the first matchup will be anything but a cakewalk. But that’s what the Cyclones want.

The Cyclones are looking at the Big 12 Tournament as good practice for the NCAA Tournament. The level of competition will be on par with any top team in the nation.

“I think you’re looking at games that rival the NCAA Tournament first- and second-round games,” Iowa State head coach Bill Fennelly said. “I think it’s a tournament where you could pick a lot of teams to win it.”

Everything the Cyclones have done throughout the season has been to prepare themselves for the Big Dance. The Big 12 Tournament will act as the final preparation for games ahead, as the level of competition will simulate NCAA Tournament games.

However, the Cyclones have been preparing for much longer than just March. There was a reason that they opted to compete in as many road games as they did.

“I don’t know if there’s a team in the country that you could look at and say, ‘They’ve done the things that they’ve needed to do away from home,’” Fennelly said.

If the Cyclones end up with a No. 4 seed for the NCAA Tournament, they get to play at home to open the tournament. However, the idea of the Cyclones not having a home game for the NCAA Tournament doesn’t scare them one bit. The team worked hard early in the year to prepare for a tough road slate ahead.

The Cyclones played in-state rivals Iowa and UNI on the road. They took part in the Phil Knight Invitational and beat a tough Villanova team on the road. They even had to play half the Big 12 games on the road, so everything they’ve done throughout the season has prepared them for the tournament season ahead.

Not only that, many of the teams that the Cyclones played will be in the NCAA Tournament, even their first opponent of the season Cleveland State, who just punched its ticket after winning the Horizon League Championship.

“We’ve challenged ourselves,” Fennelly said. “We’ve beat some good teams. We’ve lost to some good teams.”

Now the only thing left to do is go out in the Big 12 Tournament and show the world what Iowa State brings to the table.

The Cyclones will take on Baylor at 7:30 p.m. Friday in Kansas City, Missouri. The game will be streamed live on ESPN+.