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Iowa State Daily

Confidence levels rising as Iowa State preps for North Dakota State

Arianna+Jackson+setting+up+her+teams+offense+during+the+Iowa+State+vs.+Iowa+match%2C+Hilton+Coliseum%2C+Dec.+6%2C+2023.
Matteo Bender
Arianna Jackson setting up her teams offense during the Iowa State vs. Iowa match, Hilton Coliseum, Dec. 6, 2023.

With the Cy-Hawk game in the rear-view mirror, the focus for Iowa State now moves to closing the non-conference portion of the schedule in a strong way.

Confidence among the players and coaching staff is rising every game. A good showing against No. 4 Iowa boosted morale and proved that the Cyclones can contend with top teams.

“Their confidence level is usually pretty high. They’re excited about what’s next and they believe in themselves,” Iowa State head coach Bill Fennelly said. “I think as a coaching staff, I’ve seen a lot of growth from the start of the season, and that’s a good thing.”

After a few days to regroup, Iowa State has its sights set on North Dakota State (NDSU).

The Bison are 4-5 with losses to tough teams including No. 22 Creighton and Drake, the same Drake team that beat Iowa State by 12 and held the Cyclones to four points in the second quarter.

NDSU lost to Drake by 11, one point less than the Cyclones, but looked more competitive against a common opponent. Fennelly said the versatility of NDSU and the scoring ability will be a challenge.

“They played [Drake] better than we played them,” Fennelly said. “They’re gonna make you run your offense and take care of the ball, which has been a bit of a struggle for us.”

Turnovers are an area where both teams have struggles. Iowa State averages 15 turnovers per game and NDSU averages 17 per game.

Fixing issues like that has been a big talking point for Iowa State. Arianna Jackson said fixing the small things first can lead to correcting bigger issues down the line with just three games left before Big 12 play.

“We know that once we end these last three games it’s really go time,” Jackson said. “Finishing, doing the little things right and just being really focused on what we’re doing I think is going to be really good for us.”

An area that has worked well for the Cyclones has been attacking the paint. NDSU does not have a center on its roster, so players like Audi Crooks, Isnelle Natabou and Jalynn Bristow could have a big impact.

“North Dakota State is going to be very physical,” Fennelly said. “They’re going to challenge our post defense, because their post players can go away from the basket, and we haven’t had to face that a whole lot.”

Bristow was in the game against Iowa as the center for the Cyclones a few times. She said that is something that has been worked on in practice.

“In practice we kind of go both sides,” Bristow said. “Me, [Brown] and [Diew], we kind of work between post players and guards. It wasn’t anything we haven’t experienced before.”

Iowa State hosts North Dakota State at 5 p.m. Sunday. The game can be streamed live on ESPN+.

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