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Iowa State Daily

Iowa State clashes with Northern Iowa to finish non-conference schedule

Tyler Coe
Emily Ryan scores her first basket of the season after scoring an and-one against Troy at Hilton Coliseum on Dec. 17, 2023.

Riding a two-game winning streak, the Iowa State women’s basketball team aims to conclude its non-conference schedule on a high note. The Cyclones host Northern Iowa (UNI) in what will be the fifth-straight home game for Iowa State.

The big news from the last game against Troy was that senior Emily Ryan made her long-awaited return to the court. Ryan played nine minutes and is expected to play around the same amount against UNI.

“The goal is to, hopefully, slowly increase her minutes,” Iowa State head coach Bill Fennelly said. “They’ll continue to check that she’s doing well, and the long term goal is to continue to increase her availability.”

Freshman Audi Crooks had a big game against Troy, shooting 9-for-10, scoring 21 points and getting nine rebounds. Her play was rewarded with her being named Big 12 Freshman of the Week.

“It was just nice to finally be able to actually put that out there and allow people to see the kind of machine that we can be when we are all cohesively on the same page,” Crooks said.

To this point, Iowa State has not beaten an in-state opponent. The Cyclones lost to Drake on the road and lost to Iowa at home, leaving UNI as the final shot to beat a team from Iowa.

UNI enters Ames with a 1-7 record. The lone win for the Panthers was their season-opener against Green Bay on Nov. 6 by a score of 78-67.

The Cyclones and Panthers have a few common opponents, including Iowa, Syracuse and Vanderbilt. Both schools hosted and lost to the now No. 3 Hawkeyes, Iowa State by nine and UNI by 41.

Over Thanksgiving weekend, Iowa State played Syracuse and Vanderbilt in the South Point Shootout in Las Vegas. The other team that attended was UNI.

Both the Cyclones and Panthers did not grab a win in Las Vegas. Syracuse beat Iowa State by 12 and UNI by 17, while Vanderbilt beat Iowa State by 15 and UNI by four.

“Their two games were very similar to ours with Syracuse and Vanderbilt. Scores were similar. Gameflow was similar,” Fennelly said. “They’re going to be as well prepared, if not more so than any team we play. They’re very good at what they do, and they’re very committed to it.”

Statistically, the Panthers do not shoot the ball well, making 36% of their shots and 27% of their 3-pointers. Iowa State’s shooting percentage has climbed after the past few games, up to 47% from the field and 36% from three.

Even though the offense was rolling and Iowa State scored 105 points against Troy, turnovers were also at a season high with 18. That number increased significantly from the previous two games, where the Cyclones turned the ball over a season low 11 times against both Iowa and North Dakota State.

“What we’re trying to get our team to understand is when we do the things we can do offensively, mainly take care of the ball, we’ve got a chance to score a little bit,” Fennelly said.

The game against UNI will cap off what has been a busy past few weeks for Iowa State. Finals just wrapped up, meaning a short break will be soon approaching for Christmas and the holidays.

Freshman Jalynn Bristow said her first finals week at Iowa State was stressful at first, but the support of Fennelly and the coaching staff helped get her through it. She said Fennelly always talks about putting school first.

“Coach [Fennelly] is always there for us. He always tells us if you need time off, go ahead and take it,” Jalynn Bristow said about balancing her first finals week while playing basketball. “Having him there for you when you need it school-wise is great.”

When asked if she was excited for break, Crooks said she was, but there was still business to take care of first.

“I’m not thinking about a break until I hear the final buzzer,” Crooks said.

Iowa State will be home to finish the non-conference season at 6:30 p.m. Wednesday against UNI. The game will be streamed live on ESPN+.

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