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Cyclones look to start bye week off right with first ever UCF matchup

Emily+Ryan+getting+ready+to+run+into+the+paint+during+the+Iowa+State+vs.+Oklahoma+State+game+in+Hilton+Coliseum%2C+Jan.+31%2C+2024.
Matteo Bender
Emily Ryan getting ready to run into the paint during the Iowa State vs. Oklahoma State game in Hilton Coliseum, Jan. 31, 2024.

With Iowa State’s 78-67 bounce-back win over Oklahoma State Wednesday night at Hilton Coliseum, the Cyclones will be looking to build off this win and potentially start a new winning streak.

That all starts with their trip to Orlando, Florida, as Iowa State will take on UCF Saturday morning. It will be the first-ever matchup between each other, so the Cyclones will be looking to start their history on the right foot.

This travel to Orlando could affect Iowa State as they will just be coming off of a grueling three-game road trip that resulted in the Cyclones’ first three conference losses after starting 6-0 in conference play.

Head coach Bill Fennelly believes that while the travel may affect his team, he still sees it as a great opportunity to get to play against a new program that the school has never faced ever before.

“It’s a challenge because it’s a longer trip. I think the uniqueness of it is that we are playing in a new venue playing a different team that plays a different style but that is what this league has become,” Fennelly said.

For the players, having to yet again hit the road could be weighing on them, despite their upcoming bye week. Having a veteran like guard Emily Ryan prepares this young team for this challenge is crucial to their play Saturday.

“Road games are always tough in the Big 12, so we’re gonna have to prepare really hard,” Ryan said. “It’s gonna take a lot of mental acuity and just having to focus on doing the small things that’ll help us prepare.”

Despite the Knights not starting their Big 12 campaign on the right track with their 1-8 conference record, it will still not make it any easier for Iowa State to stroll by this struggling team, as UCF has had its best record at home (7-4).

A big reason for UCF’s 10-9 overall record has come from guard Kaitlin Peterson, who currently leads not just her team, but the entire Big 12 in scoring with 21.1 points per game.

One of the main reasons Peterson averages this type of scoring has come from a league-high 36.6 minutes played per game, so it will be rare to see her off the court on Saturday.

Fennelly knows the challenges of facing the type of caliber player that Peterson presents, so keeping her contained is at the top of his list when it comes to preparing for this team.

“She put up some big numbers against Baylor and is the leading scorer in our league, so the scouting report will start with [Peterson],” Fennelly said. “I think for us, it’ll start with how we play offense against their pressure defense, which we’ve struggled with.

While the Knights do not have any stats that jump off the page aside from Peterson’s scoring, it still won’t be a cakewalk for the Cyclones who are looking to push past this game to start its bye week off the right way.

“I think it’s exciting to have something like this before the break,” Fennelly said. “We’re excited about the challenge and we’ll hopefully finish this pre-bye in a positive way.”

The first-ever clash between Iowa State and UCF will tip off at 11 a.m. Saturday. The game will also be streamed on ESPN+.

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