The Cyclones will be seeking their first true road victory of the season when they take on the Kansas Jayhawks on Saturday at 1:00 p.m. on FSN.
“Any time you go on the road in this league, [it’s tough to win],” coach Bill Fennelly said. “I don’t think it’s an accident, [on Wednesday], every home team won.”
Fennelly was referring to the Big 12’s opening night of conference play. Eight of the 10 teams in the conference squared off, and all four home teams won – even a 4-7 Oklahoma squad.
Iowa State is no stranger to tough road matchups.
In each of their road losses to South Dakota and Iowa, the Cyclones had a chance to tie the game in the final 30 seconds but weren’t able to close the door.
“We were in both games, but we didn’t have the mental or physical toughness to finish them,” Fennelly said. “We’ll see what Saturday brings.”
Against South Dakota, the Cyclones saw their worst shooting night of the year dig them into a 35-18 halftime deficit before rallying back in a narrow loss.
In Iowa City, the team went down early 21-8 before going on an identical 21-8 run to tie things up and keep the game close. It just didn’t fall their way at the end.
“What’s important to us is just getting a good start and playing a full four-quarter game,” sophomore Madison Wise said.
Since that last road game, Iowa State has been on a roll, winning five straight games including a victory over the RPI No. 10 Drake Bulldogs.
“I think we’re better,” Fennelly said. “I think we’re a lot better team than we were three weeks ago. At the same time, you have to understand what you’re getting into on the road.”
The Jayhawks finished last season with a 3-15 mark in the league, but that doesn’t mean it will be an easy win. Kansas had a bye during the first night of conference play, so they’ve had ample time to plug in and prepare for the Cyclones.
Though, there are two sides to that.
“Because of the preseason WNIT, this group does better in a rhythm of play-practice-play-practice,” Fennelly said. “This group is just better at that.”
Even though Kansas is coming off a second-to-last place finish in the conference last season, Fennelly expects to see an improved Jayhawk team take the court on Saturday. Iowa State’s head coach said he had Kansas in the middle of his preseason poll for the conference and called the team senior dominated.
“This will be a good test for us in a road game,” senior Alexa Middleton said. “We need a road a win. We’re going to play our best.”
The main senior Iowa State will be looking at is Kansas’ Jessica Washington. She leads the Jayhawks averaging 15.9 points per game and shooting a team-high 40.4 percent clip from the three-point line.
“You’re not going to stop her from scoring,” Fennelly said. “I know two years ago we went down to [Lawrence] and held her to 36. She’s a dynamic scorer.”
That 36-point performance was the last time the Cyclones faced Washington – who sat out last season due to injury. The mark was her career high.
Iowa State is trying to build off of the success it has had coming into this game. After all, the team just beat Kansas State by the largest margin in the 92-game series history. The Cyclones scored 96 points against the Wildcats and connected on a season-high 16 three-pointers on the night.
“We needed that,” Middleton said. “We’ve been waiting for that game for a while and it couldn’t have happened in a better game [than] at the start of conference play.”
Don’t look for it to be that high scoring on Saturday, though. Kansas is prepped with a much more aggressive defense than Kansas State’s, according to Fennelly.
“We played 30 minutes [against KSU] and turned the ball over twice,” Fennelly said. “We played 10 minutes where we looked like we were in a bakery we were turning it over so much. If we do that on the road, [we’re] going to get beat. That’s the way it is.”
Middleton said the Cyclones have a championship mindset this year and the win against Kansas State was a step in the right direction.
The win was large, but Iowa State is wanting more.
“Clearly there’s a high,” Wise said. “We don’t want that to be the high of the season.”