Iowa State hopes to boost NCAA tournament chances in Big 12 tournament

Cyclones are No. 4 seed and face Kansas State in quarterfinals

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AMES — The Iowa State women’s basketball team entered the postseason with a renewed energy.

That hasn’t diminished the desire to prove itself worthy of the NCAA tournament.

No. 5 seed Iowa State will face No. 4 seed Kansas State in the quarterfinals of the Big 12 tournament Saturday in Oklahoma City. Tipoff is at 11 a.m. on FSN.

“We beat Texas on the road, but we also lost to some teams we could’ve and should’ve beat maybe,” said sophomore guard Bridget Carleton. “So we want to play as hard as we can and as best as we can to guarantee that for sure.”

The last loss before the Cyclones’ (18-11, 9-9) five-game winning streak was to the Wildcats (21-9, 11-7) in Manhattan, but the two split the season series. Iowa State has won 12 of the last 17 games against Kansas State.

Kansas State differentiates itself from most other Big 12 teams through switching defenses — playing a lot of zone. Iowa State coach Bill Fennelly said keeping them off the free throw line — they shot 16-of-21 from the free throw line in the win on Feb. 11 — and not giving away many possessions is more crucial in this matchup.

“When it’s a one-and-done kind of format, when it’s a missed block out or forget a defensive assignment, missed free throw or missed layup,” Fennelly said, “those things are just magnified dramatically this time of year.”

Iowa State hasn’t won a game in the Big 12 tournament since 2013 when it went to the title game against Baylor. Senior forward Seanna Johnson said getting rid of the goose egg in her conference tournament record has always been in the back of her mind.

More than anything though, Johnson knows a win could further increase the Cyclones’ NCAA tournament profile. As of Friday, ESPN lists them as a 10 seed and one of the last four teams in the field.

“Just going out there and fighting hard and knowing we have a chance at beating K-State because we have beat them before, we’ve just got to go out there and everyone has to stick on board,” Johnson said. “Just fight and play hard.”

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