AMES — The Iowa State women’s basketball team opened the season with a convincing 77-60 win over the UC-Santa Barbara Gauchos. After three days of rest, the Cyclones will return to Hilton Coliseum on Tuesday night at 7 p.m. to face a stronger but familiar foe, the UNI Panthers.
Last year’s bout was a competitive one in Cedar Falls.
The two teams were waged in a back-and-forth game until under five minutes left in the contest. A 3-pointer by Seanna Johnson broke open a six-point lead and they ultimately went onto win 84-75.
This time around, the in-state match up will be at Hilton Coliseum and that obviously bodes well for Bill Fennelly’s team.
Fennelly is 17-0 against UNI in games played inside of Hilton during his 22-year career at Iowa State.
The key to extending that streak is defense.
“[UNI] is very fundamental. They’re going to shoot the three a lot,” Fennelly said on the Panthers’ offense.
That is exactly what UNI’s offense was like in its season opening win over IUPUI, where the Panthers shot 51.9-percent from the field and 31.8-percent from the 3-point line. Iowa State only allowed UC-Santa Barbara to shoot 38.3-percent from the floor and 33.3-percent from behind the arc.
The two players the Cyclones will have to keep an eye are guards Ellie Herzberg and Maddison Weekly.
“[Weekly] is a very, very good player. She torched us last year. She scored 26 on us last year. She is a preseason All-Conference player,” Fennelly said. “[Herzberg] is a kid who is coming off injury. Who is coming off a great game to start the season. If the last game you played was a really good one, you are going to walk in feeling a lot better about yourself.”
Although Iowa State is facing a high scoring team, the Cyclones possess a high-powered offense as well. Iowa State enters the game against UNI after shooting 48.4-percent from the field, 37.5-percent behind the arc and had five players who scored double-figures. And the efficiency the Cyclones flashed in the season opener was way beyond what Fennelly expected out of his team this early in the season.
This game may turn out to be a barn burner when you consider how efficient both team’s offenses were in the season openers. However, it could also come down to whichever team is better at defensive rebounding, which is a concern for Fennelly as he believes it is Iowa State’s biggest issue and doesn’t see that changing anytime soon.
This game will be a tough, early non-conference test for the Cyclones.
“I just think you have to go in with a mindset that it’s not going to be an easy game no matter what,” Johnson said. “Some games you win by 30 and some games will be a tougher match up. So for that, I just think we have to go in with the mindset, like coach said, it’s not going to be easy. But we have to play the whole 40 minutes.”