High-flying Cowgirls spell trouble for struggling Cyclones

Members of the Iowa State Basketball Team wait on the sidelines to go back in during the Iowa State Vs UC Riverside basketball game Dec 17. The Cyclones Defeated Riverside 89-66

Jack Macdonald

Over and over again this season, the Iowa State women’s basketball team has shown flashes of what could be. But the losses continue to pile up and it stems from one problem: not knocking down shots against good teams.

And for the Cyclones (8-11, 2-6 Big 12), it doesn’t get any easier when they take on a high-powered Oklahoma State (14-4, 5-2 Big 12) team Wednesday in Stillwater, Oklahoma. The Cowgirls are No. 19 in the nation and score at an insane rate. It’s a cliche to say a team needs to score more points to win, but it’s true and it’s going to be near impossible to do that come 8 p.m. at Gallagher-Iba Arena.

“[Oklahoma State’s] really good,” said coach Bill Fennelly. “I think they do as good of a job as anyone. I think they’re very underrated as a staff and a program.”

The Cowgirls average 84.4 points per game, the ninth-highest average in all of the country. Flip to the Cyclones, they average 66.7. Obviously, that puts them in a bit of a pickle. 

It doesn’t help that the Cowgirls have Cyclone-lover Kaylee Jensen. Jensen, a 6-foot-4 center, has torched the Cyclones the past four times the two Big 12 schools have played each other. Jensen has posted a 27, 12, 10 and 28-point performance in that stretch. 

“Kaylee Jensen, obviously, has gotta be the most excited kid in America,” Fennelly said. “Every time she plays against us she goes crazy.” 

Jensen is averaging 23.1 points and 12.3 rebounds per game in Big 12 play. Those numbers might go up as the Cyclones might be without Kristin Scott, their leading rebounder of the three post players. Scott left midway through the West Virginia game after suffering a head injury. According to Fennelly, it has yet to be determined if she’ll be healthy to play. 

Dooming to the Cyclones, Jensen isn’t even the Cowgirls’ leading scorer this season. That title goes to Loryn Goodwin, a fifth-year senior who landed in Stillwater, Oklahoma via University of Texas at San Antonio. Goodwin is averaging 19 points and 4.7 assists per game in conference play. 

“Loryn Goodwin on Oklahoma State is left-handed, [Alexa Middleton]’s trying to play left-handed,” Fennelly said. “She’s pretty damn good at it too. She’s just doing whatever we ask her to do.” 

Perhaps Middleton playing left-handed isn’t a bad thing as Fennelly has said the transfer is one of the most feared players on the roster. The only problem, Middleton isn’t eligible to play this season. 

While Middleton crafts her game to mirror Goodwin for Wednesday night’s tilt, junior Bridget Carleton is working on honing in hers after cooling off after a slump-breaking performance against Baylor last week. 

Carleton broke out of that slump with 24 points, but bounced back to only record 11 points against West Virginia. The Canada native made just four shots, her second-lowest tally this season. But while she hasn’t been shooting the ball well, other facets of her game have come to the forefront of her playing style. 

“Even if I’m not shooting the ball well, I’m willing to get that extra stop, get that steal and dive on the floor,” Carleton said.

Carleton’s workhorse mentality doesn’t go unnoticed, but the conversations the women’s team has with the men’s program went unnoticed until right now. No one knows the feeling the women are going through better than the other team they share Hilton Coliseum with. 

The men are coming off a beating by Texas, just a game after they knocked off No. 8 Texas Tech. The only difference between the two teams is the men have been able to get that quality win. 

However, the two have come together to try and forge a plan on how to simultaneously break out of the 2017-18 slump and get back to what Cyclone basketball has been known for—winning. 

“Steve [Prohm] and I are taking turns taking sharp objects out of our desks,” Fennelly joked. “It’s just the nature of the business… We all go through it and you’re not immune to it… You’re just trying to help each other out and get through it.”