Iowa State dominates post in win against Southern

Freshman forward Meredith Burkhall tries to work around a defender during a game against the Drake Bulldogs, Nov. 15 in Des Moines. The Cyclones would go on to lose 74-70.

Luke Manderfeld

It was a lineup that the ISU women’s basketball team hadn’t turned to all season. Partly because of Bridget Carleton’s injury and partly because of the matchup, the Cyclones started Sunday’s game against Southern with two forwards and three guards.

Normally, ISU coach Bill Fennelly goes with four guards and one forward. But, he decided to go big.

“We’ve been practicing a lot of different lineups,” Fennelly said. “We know at some point we’re going to have to go a little bit bigger. We’re trying to get some offense off the bench. We’re just trying a lot of different stuff.”

It didn’t go so well early on, as Iowa State (4-3, 0-0 Big 12) couldn’t run an effective offense and struggled to pull away from an undersized Southern (2-4, 0-0 SWAC). Fennelly shifted his offense back to his typical four-guard, one-forward approach.

“[It went] kind of like my experiments in chemistry class when I was a sophomore in high school and the thing blew up in my face,” Fennelly said. “It wasn’t great. It wasn’t terrible.”

Even though the two-forward lineup didn’t work out to start the game, Iowa State’s post players still dominated, and the Cyclones won in huge fashion, 86-46. 

The Cyclones cleaned up on the glass, out-rebounding the Jaguars 61-34. Iowa State also had an abundance of second-chance opportunities, dropping 21 points off of its 17 offensive rebounds.

The Cyclones dominated inside the paint, out-scoring the Jaguars 34-10 down low. Forward Meredith Burkhall, who started the game alongside Bryanna Fernstrom in the post, put up a game-high 18 points on 9-for-14 shooting in only 27 minutes. She added eight rebounds and a steal.

“[I’m] coming off a big game against UNI also, so I’ve been having lots of success,” Burkhall said. “My teammates found me around the rim, and I was running the court, and my teammates found me in transition. I’m really excited. I’ve just got to keep it going and keep the consistency and keep the wins up.”

Burkhall’s strong performance has been brewing for the past few games, and she showed signs of her dominance in a win against Northern Iowa on Wednesday. Coming off the bench, Burkhall had 11 points in 14 minutes, and Fennelly said afterward that she was the highlight of the game.

The highlight of this game was Seanna Johnson, who grabbed her sixth double-double of the season with 12 points and 14 rebounds. She came relatively close to a triple-double, dishing out six assists.

And even though Johnson has been the star in the past couple of weeks for the Cyclones, Burkhall has been close behind.

“She went through a dip a little bit after the Drake game,” Fennelly said. “She found another gear. We just told her, ‘You’re going to play and do the things that you do and get us some points.’ The UNI game, obviously you didn’t expect what she did today, gave her a lot of confidence to know she can do some stuff.”

While Burkhall helped the Cyclones climb above .500 on the season, the team didn’t look like it was going to win in such dominating fashion in the first quarter. In a matter of 18 seconds, Iowa State had two turnovers. Fennelly placed TeeTee Starks at point guard to help Jadda Buckley.

That plan, along with the two-forward system, backfired.

“I probably overthought it and tried to come up with something that wasn’t there,” Fennelly said. “I would imagine we will with our normal starting lineup, depending on how things go.”

But the key for Iowa State moving forward will be what Fennelly tried at the beginning of the game Sunday — running an effective offense with two forwards in at the same time.

“I really believe as we go through our season, we have to find a way to play [Fernstrom], [Burkhall] and [Claire Ricketts], and two of them at the same time,” Fennelly said. “Not all the time because it’s not going to be our best lineup, but we have to find a way with those two in the game where we can function. There’s a lot of good things, but it’s not something we are good at yet.”