‘Special’ Senior Day heightens emotions ahead of Texas clash

Senior guard Emily Durr Knocks and Oklahoma State player to the ground while going up for a basket during the Iowa State vs OSU basketball game Feb. 10 in Hilton Coliseum.The cyclones were narrowly defeated by the Cowgirls 73-81

Noah Rohlfing

Emotions will be heightened on Saturday in Ames when No. 6 Texas comes to town for Senior Day.

This season has been up and down for Iowa State, with plenty in the way of disappointing losses at home and surprising wins on the road. The Cyclones have picked up steam as of late, winning three of their last five outings and riding the coattails of the duo of Bridget Carleton and Emily Durr.

Only one of those wins has come at Hilton (where Iowa State is 2-6 at home in conference play), which is why this Senior Day is so important to coach Bill Fennelly.

Fennelly said he wanted to send the two seniors, Durr and Claire Ricketts, out in the best way possible.

“No one does a better Senior Day than Iowa State,” Fennelly said. “Claire and Emily have done a lot for our program.”

Durr and Ricketts will both start on Saturday against the No. 6 Longhorns. Both of the seniors have carved bigger roles in this Cyclones team as the season has gone on. Durr has scored 20-plus points in back-to-back contests, including a season-high 22 point outing against Oklahoma on Wednesday.

Ricketts, meanwhile, has worked herself into the regular rotation after the loss of junior center Bride Kennedy-Hopoate and had big games in road wins against Oklahoma State and TCU. The redshirt junior from Parkland, Texas, has averaged 16.6 minutes over the past eight games and has been a strong defensive presence in Kennedy-Hopoate’s absence.

According to Fennelly, though, Ricketts’ biggest contributions over her four years as a Cyclone have been off the court. After challenging her in the fall to be a leader for a young Cyclones team, Fennelly was proud with her efforts.

“It’s not always about how much you played and how many points you scored,” Fennelly said. “Did you have an impact?

“This program’s in a lot better place than it was because of what Claire did this year.”

Durr and Ricketts have become “best friends” over the course of the school year while rooming together with junior guard Bridget Carleton. The bond that the three players have formed is one that Durr and Ricketts said will last far after their basketball careers are over.

Ricketts was thankful for her time with Durr.

“I think it’s really great that I have someone like her to walk down the court with,” Ricketts said. “A couple tears might be shed.”

On the court, Saturday’s matchup does not do the Cyclones any favors.

The Longhorns are second in the Big 12 and are 13-3 in conference play. According to ESPN’s women’s basketball bracketologist Charlie Creme, Texas is currently projected to be a No. 2 seed in the NCAA Tournament.

It’s safe to say that the Longhorns are not going to be an easy opponent.

In the two teams’ last encounter, Iowa State stuck with Texas on the road until a late second quarter and early third quarter run of 25-1 took the Longhorns from down 29-28 to up 53-30 with 7:01 left to play in the third quarter. The Longhorns were able to get into the paint and played well against the Iowa State posts.

Now, without Kennedy-Hopoate, the Cyclones have five fewer fouls to give inside.

“When we play Baylor, when we play Texas, foul trouble usually follows,” Fennelly said.

Also key for Iowa State will be second half production. Against a team as good as Texas on the offensive end, the Cyclones will have to make shots to keep themselves in the game on Saturday.

As the curtain comes down on the Hilton Coliseum careers of Emily Durr and Claire Ricketts, Durr is happy she can end it with Ricketts by her side.

“Whenever you can do something with your best friend, it’s always going to be the best thing ever,” Durr said.