Meredith Burkhall’s role to increase against Oklahoma State

Iowa State freshman forward Meredith Burkhall runs down the court during the game against Hampton on Friday night. The Cyclones won their debut game against the Lady Pirates 95-59.

Trey Alessio

The ISU women’s basketball team lost its first game without sophomore Bryanna Fernstrom, who requested a transfer last week, but found its way around the glass against Texas Tech on Sunday.

Iowa State out-rebounded Texas Tech, 38-35, despite losing in overtime to the Lady Raiders. Now the Cyclones head to Stillwater, Okla., to take on Oklahoma State on Wednesday, and the big question surrounding Iowa State: How will freshman Meredith Burkhall respond to the increased playing time?

The Cyclones beat the Cowgirls on Jan. 2 in their first meeting in Ames, but Oklahoma State’s post players stood out. Mandy Coleman had 13 points and 10 rebounds, while Kaylee Jensen scored 10 points and snagged 19 rebounds.

“Jensen has always played well against us,” Said ISU coach Bill Fennelly. “There are certain kids when they see an Iowa State uniform they play really well. She’s a strong kid around the block. She gets a ton of rebounds.”

Fennelly also said he needs to do a better job of putting post players in the correct position and getting them the ball at the right time.

Burkhall scored eight points and tied a career high with eight rebounds Sunday. 

“I thought Meredith was fine,” Fennelly said. “I think she’s got to be more aggressive. She’s got a nice little 15-foot shot, so she gets caught hanging around the free-throw line thinking she’s a guard. We need her to post up a little bit. We need her to continue to rebound.

“For the most part, I think she competed, gave us a chance and did some really good things in the second half of the game when we needed her to.”

Fennelly said Burkhall is improving every day, but the Big 12 is a hard conference to learn on the job. Burkhall’s minutes will go up, and redshirt freshman forward Claire Ricketts will have a more prominent role.

“Last year, [Bukhall’s] playing Des Moines North and Des Moines Hoover,” Fennelly said. “Now she’s playing against the best players in the country and playing a lot of minutes. You expect her to do certain things, but we’ve got to give her some more help from the experienced players.

“If we go into every game saying, ‘Meredith Burkhall has got to be the key to winning,’ that’s not fair, and it’s not practical.”

Burkhall has to get used to the increase in playing time. She has also been doing more individual workouts to prepare for Oklahoma State’s post players — the focus being on post defense. However, she has been getting a lot of reps that were focused around offense as well.

“[Offensive aggressiveness] is just a matter of confidence — just knowing whenever I get the ball, I need to look to score and look to help the team out in best way possible,” Burkhalll said.

After Fernstrom left the team, the team had a collective conversation to focus on who’s there and the importance of what they need to do to be successful as a team moving forward.

Senior Kidd Blaskowsky said Burkhall just needs to “play her game.” She said rebounding will be a key factor against Oklahoma State.

“[Burkhall] will need to step up, Claire’s going to have to step up and [Madison Baier] is back — maybe get a few minutes out of her,” Blaskowsky said. “They’ve been working really hard and putting in extra work, so I think they’ll be ready to go.”

The Cyclones will play Oklahoma State in Stillwater, Okla., at 7 p.m. Wednesday.