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Iowa State Daily

‘We can’t have any more slip-ups’: Cyclones eye opportunity to grab road win against Houston

Arianna+Jackson+steals+the+ball+during+the+ISU+vs+KSU+basketball+game+at+Hilton+Coliseum%2C+Feb.+14%2C+2024
Elizabeth Lane
Arianna Jackson steals the ball during the ISU vs KSU basketball game at Hilton Coliseum, Feb. 14, 2024

Iowa State split its games against top-10 teams last week, beating Kansas State at home and losing to Texas on the road. Another road game is up next as Iowa State takes on Houston for the first time ever.

Houston has had trouble in its first Big 12 season, so the Cyclones view the game as a big opportunity.

“This Houston game is huge for us,” freshman Audi Crooks said. “It’s kind of a pivotal moment in our season, just closing out the Big 12 Conference going into the tournament.”

Iowa State, 8-6 in the Big 12 and 14-10 overall, currently resides in fifth in the standings due to a tiebreaker over Kansas and Baylor. Houston holds the tiebreaker over Cincinnati for 11th, with a 4-10 conference and 13-12 overall record.

The big issue the Cyclones face is their recent struggles in road games, which could be something Houston tries to exploit. The last five road games have resulted in a loss for Iowa State.

One of those losses was to Big 12 newcomer UCF who, like Houston, came from the American Athletic Conference and has had trouble in games against Big 12 competition. Iowa State head coach Bill Fennelly said this game is crucial to win to ensure a strong end to the season.

“It’s a huge opportunity,” Fennelly said. “You’re playing games that can really impact what direction your season goes. It’s a team we’ve never played, another road game, but certainly, when you get to this time of year, you just really want to be honest with yourself.”

Houston is led by guard Laila Blair, who averages 16 points per game and is the best shooter the Cougars have. Iowa State may need to turn to the defensive abilities of freshman Arianna Jackson to slow Blair.

“I take a lot of pride in my defense,” Jackson said. “That’s kind of what gets me going most games. Knowing that they have a pretty good guard will get me going pretty early.”

Jackson and the Cyclones could take advantage of Houston’s shooting and defending. The Cougars are second to last in the Big 12 in field goal percentage at 38.2% and are last in opponent field goal percentage at 44.2%.

With four games to go in the regular season, both teams will try to best one another for a better placement in the Big 12 Tournament. For Iowa State, a road win over Houston could boost its chances of making the NCAA Tournament.

“We can’t have any more slip-ups. We have to be fully motivated and just ready to execute from the jump,” Crooks said.

The first-ever women’s basketball matchup between Iowa State and Houston starts at 7 p.m. Wednesday and will be streamed on ESPN+.

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