AMES — The Iowa State women’s basketball team’s last loss came three weeks ago against Texas.
Since then, the Cyclones have been on a roll, beating the likes of then-No. 6 Baylor and Oklahoma State, which was undefeated in Big 12 Conference play before it lost to Iowa State.
Now, No. 24 Iowa State gets a chance to prove it has grown when it hosts Texas at 5 p.m. Saturday (ESPN2).
“It’s only been three weeks, but in this COVID world, the years go fast and the days take forever,” Iowa State head coach Bill Fennelly said. “We are a better team — there’s no question we’re a better team. We’ve played more games, had more practices and our younger kids have been put in tough situations.”
The last time Iowa State played Texas, the Cyclones struggled with the Longhorns’ physicality.
It’s one area Fennelly hopes his team has improved in the most, and given the recent sample of games, it has.
Iowa State out-rebounded a Baylor team that had a huge size advantage and was able to contain Oklahoma State’s Natasha Mack.
But Texas brings a whole different brand of physicality with first-year head coach Vic Schaefer, the former Mississippi State coach and reigning National Coach of the Year.
“When you play Texas, it’s hand-to-hand combat,” Fennelly said. “You have to fight back. They’re very, very physical, they’re pressing the whole time, there’s always a body or hands on you. It’s not going away and we have to handle it, which we didn’t, at all, the first time we played them.
“When the other team can impose their will on you, it’s hard to win. If we can figure out how to play how we want to, then we have a chance. If we don’t, then we’ll be in for another long night.”
Fennelly and his team learned a lot from the physicality and how to prepare for it.
“Texas got after us pretty good and we didn’t handle it the way we needed to,” Fennelly said. “It taught us about preparation and how we do things. That’s the nature of this league, you’re going to lose games. We needed to understand it, learn from it and then figure out what we needed to do to fix it. Our players have certainly done that.”
“It’s about the intention with which you have to prepare when you play really good teams. It was a learning situation and one our kids have grown from.”
Iowa State was able to survive a bit of a stumble against Oklahoma its last time out, but if the Cyclones can return to form, Saturday’s game is sure to be a well-contested one.
“We’ve grown a lot,” ISU senior Maddie Wise said. “Last game clearly wasn’t our best, but we’ve grown a lot on the court and our chemistry has gotten a lot better since the Texas game. It comes down to our effort and execution being there in order to get a win this weekend.”