Analysis: Post Problems continue to plague Cyclones

Junior Meredith Burkhall shoots a contested jumper in Iowa State’s 83-80 loss to Drake. Burkhall finished with four points and three rebounds.

Noah Rohlfing

The more things change, the more they stay the same.

It’s no secret that the Cyclones women’s basketball team has been searching for post depth for years now.

This season, there was hope that it had finally arrived, especially in the pre-season. Junior Meredith Burkhall, after being on her own for nearly two years, was now one of four options on the interior.

But how are they faring so far? With Iowa State off to a disappointing 3-4 start with losses to UNI and Central Michigan, there have been plenty of offensive areas in which the Cyclones have been inconsistent at best. The Cyclones have a turnover-to-assist ratio of 1.21-to-1 this season, and the three main post options (Kristin Scott, Meredith Burkhall and Bride Kennedy-Hopoate) are currently shooting a combined 41.73 percent from the field.

With that in mind, let’s dive into the stats and see how each of Iowa State’s posts are performing six games in, and what that means for the ‘Clones.

Meredith Burkhall: One of the team leaders heading into the season, Burkhall has had mixed performances this year. Through the first six games of the season, the Urbandale native was one of only two players to start each game, alongside star junior guard Bridget Carleton.

However, she is only averaging 20.1 minutes per game. Part of that is likely due to the competition for playing time, but after the Vanderbilt game Saturday, she is averaging just 6.9 points per game, 1.1 points lower than last year’s average.

Fennelly has mentioned the lack of post scoring often this season.

“We’re not scoring,” Fennelly said before the Missouri-Kansas City game. “We have to get that cleaned up.”

Burkhall has only taken one 3-pointer all season, and her production has mostly come from post-ups in the low block. She is shooting 47.5 percent on 40 shots, taking an average of 5.7 shots per game. That number is part of a trend, as since her freshman year, when Burkhall took 8.13 shots per contest, her shot attempt numbers have gone down each year.

Her field goal percentage is three percent higher than her numbers last year, but still short of the national average. Burkhall is only averaging 4.7 rebounds per game, which may be of some concern to Cyclone fans, as there are three games this season in which she grabbed less than four boards.

Burkhall knows the Cyclones’ posts have to make the most of their opportunities.

“We know our performance hasn’t been acceptable,” Burkhall said before the UMKC game. “We need to value the ball.”

Bride Kennedy-Hopoate: The JUCO transfer from Brisbane, Adelaide, Australia, by way of Hutchinson, Kansas, has been in and out of the starting lineup this season as Fennelly tries to find his best combination. The junior has had ups and downs, with the low coming in a 10-minute outing against Missouri-Kansas City.

Kennedy-Hopoate has averaged 6.4 points per game and has been consistent on the offensive end. In three of the Cyclones’ seven games she has scored exactly six points, but her efficiency has taken a dip and she is shooting 47.1 percent from the field. Limited minutes haven’t helped those numbers, but her production has been sound.

One might point to Kennedy-Hopoate’s low rebounding numbers (5.3 per game) as a disappointment, but she’s averaging less than 17 minutes per game, so these numbers average out to 12.77 per 40 minutes.

The more concerning stat is the foul trouble that Kennedy-Hopoate has often found herself in. The only two games in which she has had less than three fouls were against Tulane and Drake, and she fouled out against Vanderbilt. Given her limited minutes, her propensity to foul could cause problems later in the season, especially if she takes on a larger role.

Kristin Scott: A breakout performer at times for the Cyclones this year. The freshman has jumped at the chance to make an early impression on Fennelly, and has found herself rapidly becoming the top post option for Iowa State this year. An inside-outside threat with a smooth jump shot, she has showcased versatility and confidence generally not found in a true freshman.

Fennelly points to her impressive rebounding numbers as the main reason for her rise up the depth chart. The freshman, who Fennelly said has been battling a back injury recently, is averaging 8.1 rebounds per game. Through the first six games of the season, she was one of only five freshmen in the country averaging over nine rebounds.

“She’s very active,” Fennelly said. “She has good anticipation.”

“She’s the best rebounder on our team.”

Scott’s shooting numbers have not been as sterling, though. Through seven games, the Kasson, Minnesota, native is shooting 30.6 percent. That number is in large part due to Scott going 5-for-31 over her last four appearances. This includes a 1-for-10 stretch from behind the 3-point line.

Despite her recent struggles, don’t expect Scott to stop shooting.

“If you don’t shoot, you’re never gonna make one anyway,” Scott said.

Claire Ricketts: The senior center from Parker, Texas, has played sparingly this season, averaging only 3.5 minutes per game.

Final Thoughts: The Cyclones’ posts were the subject of lots of hype before the season began, and deservedly so. After seven games, though, it’s not too difficult to see that the performances have not lived up to expectations.

Fennelly, after a tough loss to Drake in which the posts went 5-of-16 from the floor, had a blunt assessment of their current performances.

“Our post game is…. fill in the blank,” Fennelly said. “We’re not good right now.”

The Cyclones have been primarily a perimeter-based team for years now. Carleton and senior guard Emily Durr are making sure that trend continues. But with a young, inexperienced team and a constantly changing lineup, the Cyclones have struggled to find their groove as a whole.

The posts have been no exception.