Iowa State set for Vanderbilt despite struggles in the post

Junior guard Bridget Carleton drives to the hoop against Drake as the Cyclones lost 83-80. Carleton finished with 19 points and seven rebounds. 

Jack Macdonald

Only once this season has the Iowa State women’s basketball team had a stretch of two games in three days.

That stretch came a week ago when they played Tulane on Friday, Nov. 24 in the Bahamas and then, just over 24-hours later, faced Central Michigan in the Junkanoo Jam final.

And if history repeats itself, the Cyclones are in for a heck of a stretch when they travel to Nashville,Tennessee to battle Vanderbilt (2-6, 0-0 SEC) on Saturday, two days after they dropped a thriller to the Drake Bulldogs on the road on Thursday.

The story of Drake’s game was once again the Cyclones making careless mistakes at times, but to their credit, their nine turnovers were well below the season average of 17.8 prior to the Drake game.

“We only turned the ball over nine times and scored 80 points,” said Iowa State coach Bill Fennelly. “If you’re only going to turn the ball over nine times, you’re going to have a chance. Now you’ve got to make some shots and we made them [against Drake]… That’s a great number and hopefully it’s a number that we can keep down because that will be critical to any chance moving forward.”

But for Iowa State, it travels to Nashville, Tennessee, to square off with a team that forces its opponents to 14.6 turnovers per game. However, possibly to the Cyclones’ advantage, Vanderbilt is averaging 17.9 turnovers per game. The one occasion Iowa State was able to force 17 turnovers, it knocked off a pesky South Dakota team.

While the turnovers have been dropping, the rebounding dominance has continued, yet Iowa State’s post play has still been lackluster in the scoring department, to say the least.

“Right now our post play is — you can fill in the blank,” Fennelly said. “It’s not very good and it’s disappointing. It’s kind of been there for awhile and we’ve gotta figure it out.”

Last week, when the Cyclones dropped their championship game 81-60 to the Chippewas, Central Michigan won the rebound battle 43-35. More importantly, they won the offensive board battle; something Fennelly has stressed is key for the Cyclones to win all season long.

“For our team to improve in the short term, with the schedule that we have coming up, that’s gotta be the number one thing, is improving our inside game to the point where it’s not a liability,” Fennelly said.

Central Michigan and Tulane were the first two teams all season that were able to matchup with the Cyclones’ size. Harlyn Wyatt, Tulane’s 6-foot-2-inch center, grabbed 10 rebounds and Tinara Moore, Central Michigan’s 6-foot-3-inch forward, grabbed 11 rebounds, which were the first post players to exploit the Cyclones size.

Vanderbilt, at first glance, would appear to outsize the Cyclones, However, of its three rostered players at 6-feet-5-inches, only two are eligible and both average less than eight minutes per game. Autumn Newby, at 6-feet-2-inches, has been the lone post player to see heavy minutes. Newby is averaging a team-high seven boards per game.

On paper, Iowa State’s size should match up well with the Commodores biggest post players spending most of their time on the bench. Freshman Kristin Scott leads the Cyclones with 9.2 rebounds per game, but on the road in an SEC gym, stats mean nothing.

“It’s an SEC team on the road, very athletic and Stephanie White’s a great coach,” Fennelly said. “So, it’ll be a tremendous challenge for us and not just physically, but emotionally to get ready to go.”