Cyclones eager to host UT Arlington in NCAA Tournament


Iowa State senior Ashley Joens drives to the basket during the Cyclones’ 66-60 win over West Virginia in the first round of the Big 12 Women’s Basketball Championship on March 11 in Kansas City, Mo.

Andrew Harrington

AMES — Thirty-two games have all led up to this as No. 3 seed Iowa State women’s basketball will take on No. 14 seed University of Texas at Arlington in Ames during the first round of the NCAA Tournament.

UT Arlington made the tournament with a 20-7 record after beating Troy for the Sun Belt Conference title. Iowa State Head Coach Bill Fennelly said that he had not coached against many teams from the Sun Belt, but he has learned the style of play over the past couple of days.

“They are very athletic, they like to pressure the ball. You might have a little bit of undersized post players, but usually very skilled point guard play,” Fennelly said.

The Mavericks shared a pair of common opponents with Iowa State in Baylor and Oklahoma State. The team earned a similar result as Iowa State did twice against Baylor this season, losing 81-54 in their first game of the season. The Cyclones were however able to defeat Oklahoma State twice while UT Arlington suffered a 61-46 loss.

The player that jumps off the page when looking at UT Arlington is forward Starr Jacobs. She has averaged 21.1 points per game this season and leads the team with 6.6 rebounds.

Fennelly said that she is the player that sticks out when he watches film.

“Jacobs is a handful,” Fennelly said. “When you have a star caliber player, no pun intended, her name is Starr Jacobs, you have a chance to do some big things.”

One of the key motivating factors for the Cyclones this season dates all the way back to last season. Iowa State nearly upset second-seeded Texas A&M in the Round of 32 in San Antonio, but ultimately came up short in overtime by a score of 84-82.

Fennelly has made sure to motivate his team using this score, putting it on the scoreboard of the practice facility and making t-shirts that say “Remember the Alamo” with the score from the game on it.

“Just kind of a mental reminder of where we were last year, and kind of what we don’t want to do again this year,” Ashley Joens said.

Emily Ryan made a similar statement, saying that it helped her to focus on the little things, knowing just how close her team was to winning.

Iowa State was selected as a No. 3 seed on Sunday, which means that the team is hosting the first and second rounds of the NCAA Tournament. Having the environment of Hilton Coliseum is exciting for the Cyclones, but Fennelly said that he is more excited for the community as a whole.

“I think it’s phenomenal,” Fennelly said. “I think the chance to play at home is great, but I think for us it’s a great way for us to showcase our university, our community on a national stage.”

The game is set to tip off on Friday at 9 p.m. and will be broadcast on ESPNU.