Burkhall may be key factor against Baylor

Redshirt sophomore guard Jadda Buckley looks for a teammate to pass the ball to at the Texas Tech game on Feb. 17 at Hilton Coliseum.

Trey Alessio

Freshman Meredith Burkhall had a big game against Texas Tech on Wednesday, but she just executed a game plan — one that may be a key to beating Baylor on Saturday in Waco, Texas.

Burkhall scored 19 points and snagged seven rebounds in the 77-48 victory. She led the Cyclones in points, but she was just doing what the team had been working on in practice.

The game plan was to get Burkhall to run the court more, to create outside shots and open lanes inside the paint.

“When [post players] run the court, that opens up people, whether that’s them transition-wise, and also the opposing team is focused on them because they’re closer to the hoop,” said redshirt sophomore Jadda Buckley. “And that opens up 3-point shots for other people. It opens up the lane for me to drive. It’s a win-win situation either way.”

This concept is fairly new to Burkhall, who is still transitioning from high school play to the speed of the Big 12. ISU coach Bill Fennelly said he remembers watching Burkhall in high school, bringing the ball up the court at times.

“I think most inside players, when they’re young, are taught that you’re bigger and slower — just amble down there and get on the block and do your thing,” Fennelly said. “I think what we’ve tried to do is tell our players … just because you’re ahead of the ball doesn’t mean you’re running hard.

“She’s gotten better at it. I think she understands the concept a little more.”

Fennelly said Burkhall is constantly improving. He wants her to work ahead of the defense instead of just “hand fighting” with other post players at the time the ball gets into the post. He said learning the concept takes time, but she has made of a lot of progress.

“She’s really developing,” Fennelly said. “She’s a very skilled kid. She’s got a nice, little touch with her right and her left hand. I think the biggest thing is when you play against bigger, stronger kids, your tendency is to go away from the contact and try and free yourself, which makes it worse.

“She actually likes to face up more than she does with her back to the basket, so we’re trying to get her to do a little of both. The more she plays, the more she gets it. Her skill set is pretty good. Now, we’ve got to get her bigger, stronger.”

Burkhall will have to be on her A-game and execute this new run-the-court philosophy to match up with Baylor’s post players. Last time against Iowa State, Khadijiah Cave, one of Baylor’s post players, dominated with 18 points and 13 rebounds.

Burkhall said the up-and-down approach will be a key against Baylor on Saturday. Buckley also said it was evident that Burkhall ran the court well against Texas Tech, which was a big part of Iowa State’s success.

“We’re going to have to put offense and defense together to beat a good team like Baylor,” Burkhall said. “We can’t have any mishaps on defense. We have to know what we’re doing — no positions off. We’re going to have to do things on both ends of the floor to beat Baylor on Saturday.”

The Cyclones will take on Baylor at 2 p.m. Saturday in Waco, Texas. 

“We’re going to come out with high energy,” Burkhall said. “With everything we did last night, we’re going to try to carry it over to Saturday with more defensive tendencies to guard Baylor’s bigs inside.”