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Staff Picks: Houston, BYU

Isnelle+Natabou+catches+a+pass+during+the+ISU+vs+KSU+basketball+game+at+Hilton+Coliseum%2C+Feb.+14%2C+2024.
Elizabeth Lane
Isnelle Natabou catches a pass during the ISU vs KSU basketball game at Hilton Coliseum, Feb. 14, 2024.

Pavle Markovic, Sports Reporter 

Iowa State 76, Houston 68

The Cyclones find themselves in a similar situation to early February when Iowa State took down Oklahoma State at home after being on a three-game losing streak (not counting TCU). The Cyclones then went on the road to uncharted territory in Orlando, Florida, and lost to a worse-off UCF team.

Minus the three-game losing streak and the uncharted territory, it has been about the same for the Cyclones as they took down a then-No. 7 Kansas State team in stunning fashion at home after being on a two-game losing streak, but they then went on to drop the next game in Austin, Texas, where they fell to No. 5 Texas. 

Now the Cyclones travel back to the Lonestar state to a city they have never played in before, as they take on Houston on Wednesday night. For the Cougars, they have not found much success in their first season in the Big 12, as they sit with a 4-10 conference record.

One thing that has gone right for Houston this season comes from guard Laila Blair, who currently holds a 16-point-per-game average. This average also ranks sixth in the Big 12, as she has been a bright spot on a not-so-impressive team.

But then again, this is starting to look like deja vu for the Cyclones, as the Cougars have very similar team ranks to a UCF team they previously lost to. Still, I believe that this is the game that the Cyclones can break out of their five-game road loss streak, and I have Iowa State taking down Houston in the first-ever matchup between the two teams. 

Iowa State 77, BYU 71

Following another trip down south, Iowa State will host its second-to-last home game of the season, as the Cyclones will welcome BYU to Hilton Coliseum for the first time in Cougars history. For the Cougars, they will be looking to enact revenge against Iowa State, as the Cyclones previously took them down in Provo, Utah, this season.

Like Houston, BYU has struggled to get its first Big 12 season on the right track, as the Cougars sit at 5-9 in conference play but have started to get some key wins as of late. Before BYU’s loss to Kansas, the Cougars were riding a three-game win streak, which was highlighted by an upset win at home against then-No. 18 Baylor.

The key to BYU’s success this season comes from its 3-point shooting, as the Cougars hold the highest shooting percentage from beyond the arc in the Big 12 (37%). Guard Kailey Woolston has been the leading candidate in that category for BYU, as she averages a league-high 45.9% from 3-point range this season.

While the 3-point shooting leads the Cougars’ offense, BYU still has a dominant force in forward Lauren Gustin, which could give Iowa State some issues. Gustin currently leads the conference in rebounds (15.3) while averaging 17.5 points per game, the fifth highest in the Big 12. 

Even though BYU will be seeking to get one back against Iowa State, I do not believe that the Cougars will get the chance to do that, as the Cyclones should pull out a closer win than expected in Ames, Iowa.

Brett Twelmeyer, Sports Reporter 

Iowa State 72, Houston 69 

The past few road games have not gone the way the Cyclones have wanted. With losses in each of the last five road games, Houston presents an opportunity to change that narrative and grab a late-season road win.

What still bugs me is the Iowa State loss to UCF. This game is eerily similar, given that Houston is a new Big 12 school from the same conference as UCF and that this game is not in Hilton Coliseum.

In the Big 12 standings, Houston sits in 10th place with a 4-10 conference record. The Cougars are 3-4 in home conference games while Iowa State is 2-5 in conference road games.

Houston has a tall roster, with four players either as tall as or taller than Iowa State freshman Audi Crooks. If Crooks can continue her recent ability to score against tougher, taller defenders, the Cyclones will be competitive.

Iowa State needs to take advantage of Houston’s inability to make shots and defend shots. 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 allowing 44.2%.

This is a winnable road game for the Cyclones that could boost their resume and confidence if they can pull this one out. I do like Iowa State’s chances to finally win a road game again.

Iowa State 79, BYU 70

BYU is one of two road wins Iowa State has grabbed in conference play. The other was against Oklahoma State, a team that lost the rematch in Hilton Coliseum.

Iowa State won the first game 80-75 Jan. 6. Since then, BYU has been hit or miss, 5-6 since the Iowa State game and now 5-9 in league play. 

This game will come down to who can make 3-pointers. Iowa State and BYU are in the top three in 3-point field goal percentage but are both in the bottom three in opponent 3-point percentage. Woolston is the sharpshooter for the Cougars, with a field goal percentage of 47.8% from the field and 45.8% from three. 

I am starting to sound like a broken record, but once again, getting the ball to Crooks and forcing BYU inside will be crucial for the Cyclones on offense. If the shot is not there for Crooks, she has proven that she can kick the ball out for a three, which will likely be needed against BYU.

Gustin is who Crooks will likely be matched up with on Saturday. Gustin, like Crooks, averages over 17 points per game and makes over 50% of her shots.

Because this game is at home and Iowa State already beat BYU on the road, I predict the Cyclones will grab another win in front of the Ames crowd.

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