No. 13 Cyclones head to Lubbock for matchup with Texas Tech


Jacob Rice/Iowa State Daily

Iowa State forward Beatriz Jordao works through contact in the Cyclones’ 77-62 win on Jan. 26.

Aaron Hickman

Regaining some confidence after a 77-62 victory over Kansas on Wednesday night, the No. 13 Cyclones are heading to Lubbock, Texas, for a matchup with what could be described as a “sneaky” Red Raiders squad.

Despite a 9-10 overall record and 2-6 record in conference play, Texas Tech has been able to hang with, and even win, against a couple of the Big 12’s best.

“You’ve got our attention when you go to Texas and win,” Head Coach Bill Fennelly said of Texas Tech. “[They] had a tight game with Baylor the other night down the stretch. Very skilled, very offensive-minded team. Vivian Gray is one of the most dynamic scorers in our league.”

Texas Tech also defeated Kansas State by 19 just two weeks ago, holding Ayoka Lee to just 12 points as she got into foul trouble.

Vivian Gray is a big part of what the Red Raiders do. Averaging just over 19 points-per-game in conference play, the senior guard also gets to the free-throw line at a much higher clip than her teammates.

It’s expected that Lexi Donarski will handle defensive duties for Gray, as Donarski has for the opposing team’s leading scorer frequently this season.

One of Gray’s teammates that the Cyclones will need to worry about is senior forward Taylah Thomas. She’s averaging a near double-double (points and rebounds) on the season, and post players have been doing some damage against Iowa State as of late.

Kansas’ Taiyanna Jackson had 12 points, eight rebounds and six blocks on Wednesday night. Baylor’s NaLyssa Smith and Queen Egbo combined for 31 points and 27 rebounds on Sunday.

Fennelly said that his team’s post players know they have to be better, but it ultimately comes down to stopping scoring runs. Certain players will score and get rebounds, but it’s important to avoid those plays to stack up over a short amount of time.

With three different players shooting at or above 39% from beyond the arc, those runs can come quickly for Texas Tech.

An important aspect of the game will be stopping the Red Raiders in transition, as that’s where a lot of those threes and runs come from.

“In the men’s game, it’s a breakaway, it’s a dunk,” Fennelly said. “In the women’s game, it’s a transition three a lot, and they do a really good job. The other night they shot it like crazy, and they can really spread you out.”

Fennelly identified the transition three as the play in women’s basketball that really gets the crowd going. Dunks are great, he said, but three points is more than two.

The Joens sisters will also try to keep the momentum going from their strong performances against Kansas. Aubrey had especially been struggling early on in conference play, and she sees the win as something to build off of.

“After last week, we just tried to keep focusing on what we’re about and the Iowa State way,” Aubrey said. “I think this win will definitely boost our confidence even more moving forward.”

Still tied for first in the Big 12 (now only with Oklahoma following Kansas State’s loss to Texas), Iowa State must keep winning to hold its spot.

The Cyclones are 9-1 in their past 10 matchups against Texas Tech, but only 8-10 all-time on the road in Lubbock. To put that in proper context, the team is 14-2 all-time at home.

With success on the road so far this season, though, the blueprint is there for another victory away from home.

“I think what travels is: it’s a very connected group,” Fennelly said. “We’ve been pretty good on our scouting report defense, and I think when you go on the road you better have really good guard play, and we have really good guard play in Emily and Lex. You have a star-caliber player in Ash. I think it’s all kind of come together.”

Tip-off is at 12:30 p.m. on Saturday at United Supermarkets Arena. The game can be streamed on Big 12 Now on ESPN+.