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So many layers to this Cy-Hawk women’s basketball showdown
There’s Kylie Feuerbach’s return to Hilton, Caitlin Clark and Ashley Joens ... but most of all, it’s a battle of top-15 teams
IOWA CITY — As a Cyclone, Kylie Feuerbach never got to fully experience Hilton Coliseum at full volume.
She will Wednesday. As a Hawkeye.
One of the most highly anticipated Cy-Hawk women’s basketball encounters in series history has arrived — 12th-ranked Iowa (5-1) visits No. 15 Iowa State (8-1) at 6 p.m. Wednesday (ESPNU) — and Feuerbach’s return to Ames is one of many layers.
“It’s nerve-racking a little bit,” said Feuerbach, a sophomore for the Hawkeyes, who spent her freshman year at ISU. “Going over there, it’s best to expect the worst.”
From Sycamore, Ill., Feuerbach figured to be a third-generation Cyclone. Her grandfather attended ISU. So did both of her parents and a brother.
She committed to Bill Fennelly’s program as a high school sophomore and was a valuable member of the team as a rookie, starting 24 games and averaging 5.5 points per game.
“I just don’t think it was the right place for me,” Feuerbach said during media availability Tuesday. “There’s no bad blood. It just wasn’t a great fit for me.”
Shortly after last season (a season in which all arenas, Hilton included, were empty due to the COVID-19 pandemic), Feuerbach entered the transfer portal, then committed to Iowa in mid-April. She has played in all six of the Hawkeyes’ games, and is sixth in points per game (5.3) and minutes per game (19.3).
For better or worse, the transfer portal has steadily grown in college athletics. Shortly after Feuerbach climbed aboard the Hawkeyes’ wagon last spring, Lauren Jensen and Megan Meyer hopped off. They are now at Creighton and Drake, respectively.
Iowa State has averaged a home attendance of more than 9,300 this season, and Feuerbach’s return isn’t the only reason the decibel level will be elevated.
First and foremost, it’s Iowa-Iowa State.
Second, it’s Caitlin Clark’s initial Hilton appearance. And, as Iowa Coach Lisa Bluder said, “Caitlin’s a lightning rod everywhere. People like to get on her, everywhere we go.”
The reigning Big Ten player of the week, Clark is coming off a triple-double (24 points, 10 rebounds, 12 assists) in the Hawkeyes’ win over Michigan State on Sunday.
“There’s something special in this rivalry,” Clark said. “We’re prepared for an environment in which they’re not going to be cheering for us.
“We’ve been blaring loud music at practice. I don’t know what music it is, but it’s annoying.”
Clark’s brother, Blake Clark, is a member of Iowa State’s football team as a backup quarterback and holder for the special-teams unit.
“He’s on my ticket list, but I’m sure he won’t be in an Iowa shirt,” Caitlin said. “I wouldn’t be surprised if he ended up in (the student section) to heckle me. It would be in good fun.”
Iowa has beaten ISU five straight times, twice in a row at Hilton. It marks the final Cy-Hawk game for Iowa State’s Ashley Joens, an Iowa City High alum.
“She has improved her 3-point shot so much,” Bluder said. “Now it’s a strength of her game. She’s a complete player and really hard to guard.”
Joens averages 20.2 points and 9.4 rebounds per game.
Clark was asked if she’d ever daydreamed about being on the same team as Joens, whether at Iowa or ISU.
“It never really crossed my mind,” she said. “I did play with (both Ashley and Aubrey Joens) in AAU. Playing with Ashley, it would be a lot like playing with Monika (Czinano) ... it would get my assist numbers up.”
Aubrey Joens adds 13.3 points per game and is shooting 47 percent from 3-point distance.
Last year’s outcome was a bitter one for the Cyclones, who led by 17 points in the fourth quarter before Iowa rallied to win, 82-80.