116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
AMES — Morgan Kane and her Iowa State teammates arrived at a collective decision.
“We’re going to win this game for him,” she said.
“Him” meant veteran head coach Bill Fennelly, who missed Wednesday’s 69-64 win over Oklahoma State while mourning the loss of his mother, Carol, who passed away last Sunday. She was 85.
“This game” — a gritty effort by the No. 18 Cyclones against the long and athletic Cowgirls — put a smile on Fennelly’s face after an emotional rollercoaster of a day.
“When I woke up it was gonna be arguably the worst day I had in a long time and by 10 o’clock Wednesday night, it ironically turned out to be one of the best,” said Fennelly, who will be back coaching the team in Saturday’s 5 p.m. matchup with Kansas (13-4, 3-3) at Hilton Coliseum (ESPN+). “We had a great celebration for my mom and and our team and my staff did an amazing job, so it turned out to be a really good day.”
Point guard Emily Ryan paced the Cyclones (12-4, 4-2 Big 12) with 14 points and seven rebounds in the win over Oklahoma State. Nyamer Diew chipped in 12 points and Kane added 11 points and eight rebounds to help ISU overcome another cold shooting night overall. Kane — a key player on last season’s Sweet 16 team — started her first game of the season as the Cyclones continue to shuffle lineups in the wake of 6-6 graduate transfer forward Stephanie Soares’ season-ending ACL injury.
“Mo’s probably had the hardest time,” Fennelly said of Kane. “You start last year and you’re a big piece of a really good team and all of a sudden Steph comes in and, you know, she’s not forgotten, but she is by a lot of people except the people in this building. But she handled it great. She’s a great teammate and Mo’s gonna go out there and play 15 or 20 minutes every night. She’s gonna give you everything she has. I thought the other night — again, it’s timely points, timely rebounds. She just finds a way to make a play when our team needs it the most.”
Diew has also seen her versatile role expand lately, but the 6-3 Kane is ISU’s primary post presence and her trademark toughness touches the team’s success in a variety of ways.
“I feel confident that the last game went really well, so I’m excited for the upcoming game,” Kane said.
That will come against an experienced Jayhawks team that routed then-No. 12 Arizona, 77-50, on the road in December and is coming off a 77-58 triumph over West Virginia at home.
“Kansas is like a lot of the good teams across the country, especially in women’s basketball and especially in our league,” Fennelly said. “They’re old and they’ve been together a long time.”
The same could be said for the Cyclones, who rallied behind him during a distressing time.
“It’s days like that you really get a feel for how special this place is,” Fennelly said.