Injuries force Cyclones to change lineup

Jodi Steyer, associate head coach and Jadda Buckley, redshirt sophomore guard discuss their game against Southern University on Dec. 6.

Luke Manderfeld

It has been no secret that the ISU women’s basketball team has dealt with more than its fair share of injuries, mostly the nagging type, early in the 2015-16 season.

But the big blow came last week, when the team announced freshman guard TeeTee Starks would undergo knee surgery and miss the rest of the season. 

The injury strains an already thin bench, especially at the point guard position where Jadda Buckley stands as the only true point guard. 

“That’s the No. 1 thing I’m asking from Santa. I got to find a backup point guard,” said ISU coach Bill Fennelly. “Hopefully, we’ve been good enough so he can help us out. But we’ve got to find it. We’re going to use Emily [Durr]. It’ll be Kidd [Blaskowsky]. It’ll be Bridget [Carleton]. It’ll be Seanna [Johnson]. It won’t be a traditional point guard thing.”

Because of the abundance of injuries heading into Sunday’s game against Alcorn State (2-6, 0-0 SWAC), Iowa State (6-3, 0-0 Big 12) has been forced to change its lineup. 

In place of the Cyclones’ traditional four-guard, one-forward lineup will be a three-guard, two-forward approach. The change is designed to lessen the workload on Johnson and Buckley, who both average 30-plus minutes a game, and work around the Starks injury.  

“[Stark’s] been getting 22 minutes a game, so we’ve got to come up with 22 minutes somewhere,” Fennelly said. “Can’t play Jadda more, can’t play Seanna more. So that means we will have to play with two forwards. Emily Durr has got to give us more, so that’s what we’ll practice on.”

In women’s college basketball, team’s often opt to go with more speed and shooting in the lineup rather than size. That has certainly been the case with Iowa State. 

Fennelly is in his 21st season coaching at Iowa State, but he can’t remember the last time he has been forced to use two forwards on a consistent basis. 

“We really haven’t played that way here,” Fennelly said. “The college game has become such a guard-orientated game. It’s going to be different. We’re going to have to play a little different. And not for the whole game, we still have the people that we want to play most of the game.”

Freshman Meredith Burkhall and sophomore Bryanna Fernstrom will be the two forwards for most of the game, swapping out with Claire Ricketts.

The team has experimented with the two-forward system with Burkhall and Fernstorm in the past few games, but Fennelly described it as something like his chemistry class in high school.

“It blew up in my face,” Fennelly said after a win against Southern on Dec. 6.

The lineup swap makes it difficult for spacing down in the post, mostly because the Cyclones haven’t had much time to practice it just yet. 

“The last game we did this, I remember running into each other a lot,” Fernstrom said. “[We were] just confused where to go. Spacing is key to that. The last game I remember [Burkhall] posting up when I was posting up, and I was like, ‘No, [Meredith].’ So we just kind of have to figure it out. It takes time.”

The Cyclones won’t have much time left as they take on Alcorn State on Sunday and finish off their non-conference schedule with a game against Northern Arizona on Tuesday. Iowa State will then travel to Kansas State on Dec. 30 for the Big 12 opener. 

But even though the injuries keep piling up for the Cyclones, Fennelly recognizes that there is a bright side to it. It’s a chance for other players to step up and make their mark. 

“It’s an opportunity for [Ricketts] to play more, for [Fernstrom] to get more minutes, Meredith to get more minutes, [and] move Seanna around a little bit,” Fennelly said. “We feel bad for TeeTee, but it’s someone else’s opportunity, and we need someone to take advantage of that. It literally is next person in, let’s go. And that’s the way we’re going to approach it.”