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Big 12 gauntlet starts on the road for Iowa State women’s basketball

Bill+Fennelly+throws+his+arms+up+on+the+sideline+during+the+home+opener+against+Butler+at+Hilton+Coliseum+on+Nov.+6%2C+2023.
Tyler Coe
Bill Fennelly throws his arms up on the sideline during the home opener against Butler at Hilton Coliseum on Nov. 6, 2023.

Riding high after a three-game winning streak to end the non-conference slate, the Iowa State women’s basketball team will begin Big 12 play against Oklahoma State.

Confidence seems to be high among the Cyclones. Many players are starting to find their roles on the team and an identity is starting to form.

“We’ve finally figured out each person’s role,” freshman Kelsey Joens said. “Once we got a few wins under our belt we were like ‘We can do this.’ You know, everyone’s going to underestimate us, but we’ve just got to prove them wrong.”

In a conference with juggernauts such as Texas, Baylor, Kansas State, TCU and West Virginia, among others, Iowa State will look to steal a road game to get started. Every Big 12 team finished the non-conference with a winning record.

Iowa State head coach Bill Fennelly acknowledged that the Big 12 is once again going to be a tough league. The Cyclone roster is one of the youngest in a conference full of experienced and veteran players.

“There’s a lot of really good players that have been in this league for a long, long time,” Fennelly said. “We’re going to learn a lot about how we handle any level of success and how we handle disappointment. That’s what this league is about and hopefully we’re ready for it.”

The first Big 12 game for Iowa State will be Oklahoma State who, like the Cyclones, went 7-4 in non-conference. The Cyclones will have a tough task ahead as they will try to be the first team to beat the Cowgirls at home.

Not only will the winner start Big 12 play with a win, it will also be the first Power Five win for either team. Iowa State senior Hannah Belanger said the Iowa game was a great test for the schedule that lies ahead for Iowa State.

“We obviously know it’s a step-up in competition. I think preparing for the Iowa game kind of helped us get ready in that sense, but we’re also focused on being more consistent in how we play,” Belanger said.

Three of the losses for Iowa State were to Power Five teams, including a hard-fought game at home against Iowa. All four of Oklahoma State’s losses were to Power Five teams.

Iowa State’s lone road game happened all the way back on Nov. 12, as the Cyclones took the short trip to Des Moines, Iowa, to play the Drake Bulldogs. Having not played on the road in over a month, starting conference play on the road could prove to be a challenge.

Starting conference play with a win is always important. A win over Oklahoma State could be a big statement for the Cyclones moving forward into the rest of the season.

“The road games, those are the ones that people look at the score twice,” Fennelly said. “It’s really hard to do and if you can do it it’s pretty cool.”

The Big 12 season starts at 2 p.m. Saturday as Iowa State travels to Oklahoma State. The game will be streamed on ESPN+.

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