HawkeyeReport - Behind Enemy Lines
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Behind Enemy Lines

Iowa faces Bill Fennelly's Cyclones on Wednesday night.
Iowa faces Bill Fennelly's Cyclones on Wednesday night.

An in-state match-up between two top 25 women’s basketball programs calls for a little bit more coverage. Connor Ferguson of CycloneFanatic took the time to help preview the big game and give us some insight into the Cyclones program, coached by Bill Fennelly.

The Cyclones won the Gulf Coast Showcase over the Thanksgiving holiday, while also picking up decent wins vs Drake and South Dakota State. They are 8-1 on the season.

Lexi Donarski and Aubrey Joens have taken pretty big steps compared to last season…What is different about them this year compared to last year?

CONNOR - I think the biggest difference between this season and last for these two is what Coach Fennelly equates to breaking down the freshman wall. In typical seasons, his first-year players might hit a wall at some point, where games (and competition) get harder, and their numbers drop vastly. Once they break through, they really come into themselves as to what type of player they can be. I think Donarski somewhat did that last year, but both her and Aubrey have come out firing this season, really earning those starting spots to this point of the year. Each of the two are playing far more mature.

Injuries have hit the Cyclones as of late…Nyamer Diew, Denae Fritz and Maggie Espenmiller. How much did that affect the team vs LSU and who is going to be asked to step up and contribute off the bench in their place?

CONNOR - The only players coming off the bench for the Cyclones will play in the post and I think it’s entirely possible the Hawkeyes will face four post players wearing cardinal on Wednesday night. The kicker is whether or not any of the three get to a place where they’re healthy enough to wade in the waters. That would help big-time for the Cyclones, but the X-factor / step-up player will be whoever has the hot hand at the 5-spot. They say roll with the hot goalie in hockey and I’d expect Iowa State to roll with whoever’s working best down there.

Monika Czinano and Addison O’Grady are 6’3 and 6’4 respectively…Do you expect to see Morgan Kane and Izzi Zingaro get more minutes to try to combat that height?

CONNOR - I think Iowa State will try and combat the height in the post with shooting – especially from distance. The Cyclones are 5-0 when making 10 or more 3-pointers this season and suffered its only loss (to LSU) while making 9-of-23. Iowa State can hype up the crowd with some big 3-ball makes and I anticipate it being a theme throughout the game.

What is a potential weakness the Cyclones have that you are worried about going into this game?

CONNOR - The obvious potential weakness in this, and what I didn’t want to get into in the second question because of this one, is depth. Iowa State plays a four-guard offense. Right now, it has four guards healthy. They’re asking a lot out each of the four, but that’s a talented (and tough) set to go about it with. As far as the underlying weakness – where is Iowa State’s ability to make big-time shots at? The team saw UMass storm back from a 19-point deficit in the Gulf Coast Showcase championship game, but stepped up when it needed to and won. Against LSU, they went into the final media timeout with some momentum, but missed every shot from then on out. For the Cyclones to break this Iowa streak and get a win, they’ll need to sink some big ones.

What is your matchup to watch on the court?

CONNOR - The biggest has to be Emily Ryan against Caitlin Clark. The pair of point guards will be looking to stop the other in different ways. For Ryan – a player that is advantageous in forcing turnovers – it will be a battle of stopping the Iowa star from scoring. Clark and Co. will look to interrupt the ball movement. How many assists can they limit Ryan to? How many turnovers can they create?

What are the keys to the game for Iowa State and what is your prediction for the outcome of the game?

CONNOR - The keys for Iowa State will be simple. Stop Clark from scoring, limit turnovers and limit stupid turnovers more, and hit that big shot. This game has come down to the last shot in two of the last three years. Iowa State needs to be prepared to have a play ready and to hit it if it comes.

Iowa State maximizes on forcing Caitlin Clark into shooting from distance and hopes that her struggles from deep continue. The Cyclones are able to corral Czinano and are able to break the streak with a close win at home. 62-60 Iowa State