116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
AMES — As her body healed, her confidence grew.
As her role expanded, greater expectations emerged.
And as Iowa State transfer forward Nyamer Diew’s navigated a topsy-turvy first season with the Cyclones, she’s fully on track to becoming the type of player head coach BIll Fennelly expected to her be.
That’s extremely versatile — and the X-factor for an eighth-ranked ISU team that still maintains faint hopes of claiming a share of the Big 12 regular-season title if it can win Saturday at 6 p.m. at West Virginia (ESPN+).
“I think if we just focus on ourselves anything can happen,” said Diew, a former Sioux City East star who played one season at Butler. “So just focusing on ourselves at West Virginia and the next 40 minutes will definitely help us.”
The Cyclones (24-5, 13-4 Big 12) need a win over the surging Mountaineers (14-13, 7-10) coupled with an extremely unlikely home loss by first-place Baylor against Texas Tech to share the regular-season conference crown for the first time since 2000.
So the odds are squarely stacked against them, but that doesn’t matter. And despite suffering two blowout losses to the Bears, ISU would look forward to a third meeting in next week’s Big 12 tournament in Kansas City.
“Someone asked me the other day, ‘Do you want to play Baylor again?’” Fennelly said. “And my probably stupid answer was, ‘Yeah, because if we do, we’re probably playing them in the Big 12 championship game.’ I just hope that can happen, but there’s a lot of work to do.”
Starting against the Mountaineers, who have won three straight games after dropping five of six.
“West Virginia’s playing really, really well,” Fennelly said. “It’s a good feeling that you’re playing those kind of games and we’re not just playing out the string.”
Diew is one reason the Cyclones can look to start — and possibly finish — March strong.
The 6-foot-2 sophomore has notched at least one steal in five consecutive games. She’s drained at least one 3-pointer in five of the past six games. And she’s played at least 21 minutes in seven of the past nine games.
She’s what’s often called an “energy giver” — eager to play any role in any moment.
“Now it’s Ny’s turn,” Fennelly said after noting how well ISU’s frontcourt players have developed this season. “She’s done a lot of things. We’ve played her at the two, the three, the four, the five. … She’s done a lot of really good things and really been a great asset.
“It’s fun to see her feeling even more comfortable as we get to this time of year.”
Diew fully anticipated being asked to be the Cyclones’ Swiss Army knife. Fennelly told her as much on the recruiting trail and it’s one of several reasons she chose to join the program.
“I just want to do anything to help my team win, so if that means me playing the two, or that means me playing the five, I’m gonna do whatever it takes to help our team win,” Diew said.