College Womens Basketball

2 stars shine brightest as 'decided underdog' Iowa State hosts Iowa

Iowa's Megan Gustafson, ISU's Bridget Carleton off to outstanding starts

Iowa's Megan Gustafson and Iowa State's Bridget Carleton are averaging 22 and 21 points per game, respectively, heading into Wednesday's Cy-Hawk game. (The Gazette)
Iowa's Megan Gustafson and Iowa State's Bridget Carleton are averaging 22 and 21 points per game, respectively, heading into Wednesday's Cy-Hawk game. (The Gazette)

AMES – The home team has won 15 of the last 16 Cy-Hawk games in women’s basketball.

That streak is in jeopardy Wednesday as Iowa State hosts Iowa in Hilton Coliseum at 6:30 p.m.

“This is the first time where one team is considerably better than the other team going into the game,” Iowa State Coach Bill Fennelly said. “We are a decided underdog no matter how you look at it. That’s part of it. That’s part of college sports. We’re going to have to play at a very, very high level, certainly, and hope they don’t play the way they’ve been playing.”

The Hawkeyes are 8-1, scoring 87 points per game on 53 percent shooting.

The Cyclones (3-4), on the other hand, have lost their last three games, scoring just 68 points and shooting 40 percent from the field.

While the two teams vary drastically, they do have one thing in common – they’re led by star players who have the ability to take over a game – Iowa’s Megan Gustafson and Iowa State’s Bridget Carleton.

Gustafson is averaging 22 points and 11 rebounds, shooting a staggering 70 percent from the floor.

“Obviously, her numbers are borderline-videogame like,” Fennelly said. “She’s very athletic, she does a great job of getting the ball. You have to try and limit her touches, you have to try and keep her off the boards. Obviously, you’re not going to stop her from scoring – no one can do that – but you want to make sure she doesn’t completely dictate how the game is played and take away what you can – don’t let her rebound her own misses, don’t commit a silly foul, don’t get beat in transition – things like that.”

Iowa State doesn’t have a dominant post presence, so it’ll have to defend by a committee of Meredith Burkhall, Bride Kennedy-Hopoate, Kristin Scott and Claire Rickets.

“(Gustafson is) an amazing player, she’s done a lot of good things,” Burkhall said. “We have to come in with the right approach and be ready to go and stick to the game plan and do all the little things that’ll make a big difference.”

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The game plan for Iowa State’s posts is keep it simple and don’t do too much – make open layups, grab defensive rebounds and don’t get out of position.

The challenge is that two of the four Iowa State posts had never played Division I basketball before this season. Scott is a true freshman and Kennedy-Hopoate is a junior college transfer.

“Two of them have never played at this level and it’s tough to learn on the job,” Fennelly said. “The hardest thing to do as a basketball player is learning on the job as a point guard, as a true freshman or playing in the post against the kind of players that our kids have had to play against. Hopefully they’ll rise to the occasion and accept the challenge of playing against not just Megan Gustafson, but Chase Coley is a good player, Hannah Stewart is a good player.”

On Iowa State’s side, Carleton leads the team in scoring and assists and is second in rebounds. She averages 21 points, 6.7 rebounds and 3.6 assists.

Read more: Hawkeyes seek to snap Hilton jinx

But unlike Iowa, which has Coley and Stuart and second and third options, Iowa State has yet to find those players.

“When they’ve contributed, we’ve been decent,” Fennelly said of his role players. “When they stand around and watch Bridget play, we haven’t.”

Even though Iowa State is the decided underdog, Carleton has been through this before.

“I think it reminds me of my freshman year,” Carleton said. “Iowa was ranked coming into Hilton and we weren’t ranked and we ended up pulling off that win, so it has the same feel of that year. We know the game’s going to be competitive, and they’re going to play their best, so we just have to bring it as much as we can.”

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