CEDAR FALLS — Northern Iowa women’s basketball is hoping to build off its win over No. 21 South Dakota State when it faces Iowa State (3-3) at 6:30 p.m. Tuesday at McLeod Center.
The Panthers (3-2) held the Jackrabbits to a season-low 48 points in their win Saturday. Assistant coach Steven Fennelly explained how it’ll take another similar effort to topple the Cyclones.
“Obviously Ashley Joens is a key (matchup, but) you’re not going to not allow her to score because she’s that good,” Fennelly said. “So, you try to limit her as much as possible, but then also, you can’t forget about their other pieces.”
Joens leads Division I, averaging 30.8 points per game and, according to Fennelly, UNI junior forward Bre Gunnels will draw the matchup against the country’s most prolific scorer.
Alongside Joens is forward Kristin Scott (10.5 ppg) and three promising freshman starters.
Looking at each team’s season stat sheet the contrast is profound.
Besides Joens, Scott is the only other Cyclone averaging more than 10 points per game. Meanwhile, the Panthers have seven players averaging 7.8 points or more per game — led by Karli Rucker (12.8) and Megan Maahs (11.8) — and have 10 players who have seen action in all five of their games.
“I know they love their freshmen,” Fennelly said. “They start three freshmen and in each game they’ve played you can see the confidence building for those kids.”
Fennelly said UNI will need another urgent defensive effort, along with depth to try to wear down the Cyclones.
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“We need that same (aggressive) mindset,” Fennelly said. “Get north, south. Try to make them score in the halfcourt. Coach (Tanya) Warren always talks about our depth. I think we’ve got great depth this year. Nothing against Iowa State, but I think we can play more numbers (and) get them up and down in transition. Wear them down offensively and hopefully we can get some good looks.”
Fennelly, son of Iowa State coach Bill Fennelly, has maintained family bragging rights from the rivalry game since arriving in Cedar Falls. UNI and Iowa State have played twice since he’s been on Warren’s staff and the Panthers have won both games.
“No presents, no food,” Fennelly joked. “It’s not about me, but it is a little weird for me personally if I had to be honest. I was on that bench for six years and growing up as a kid I was in the stands for thousands of games. Other than the 40 minutes we play them, I’m always rooting for them.”