The No. 15 ranked Oklahoma State Cowgirls (13-1, 2-1) come to Ames Saturday evening to face the No. 11 ranked Iowa State Cyclones, in what will turn out to be the first top-15 showdown inside Hilton Coliseum since 2002.
Hilton hasn't exactly been kind to the Cowgirls as of late; they've lost six of the last seven the past 10 years, with the average margin of defeat 16.8 points.
This match-up will be the first true test for the Cyclone's on the season. Both teams have defeated their opponents by an average of 20-plus points this season (OSU +24.6, ISU +23.4 points), however OSU is first in the conference in field goal defense, only giving up an average of 52.9 points per contest.
The Cowgirls are led by four girls who average double figures; junior forward Liz Donohoe (13.9), sophomore guard Brittney Martin (13.6), senior guard Tiffany Bias (13.5) and junior center LeShawn Jones (10.6). Bias will handle the ball most of the time and leads the league in assists (102) with only 45 turnovers. The 6-foot Donohoe leads the team in rebounds averaging 7.1 a game.
The Cyclones have five players who average double figures; senior Hallie Christofferson (21.1), junior Nikki Moody (11.5), freshmen Jadda Buckley (11.3), sophomore Nicole "Kidd" Blaskowsky (10.1), and freshmen Seanna Johnson (10.0), while junior Brynn Williamson is just outside double figures at (9.7).
What to watch for
Both teams are very similar statistically heading into this game; assists, blocks, points, rebounds, etc. but the one decisive advantage Iowa State has is its ability to stretch the defense with its three-point shooting.
The Cyclones lead the Big 12 averaging 10.43 three-pointers made a game. Both teams are similar in length as well as most every other statistical category, therefore it could come down to the minor things.
Like free throws: Iowa State leads the league in free throw percentage (.785) and has shot 58 more free throws than the Cowgirls have attempted this season. Oklahoma State as a team is only averaging .699 from the charity stripe. And outside of Donohoe, no starter on the Cowgirls team shoots better than 75 percent from the line. =
The Cyclones will win if...
... They can match the effort by Oklahoma State, keep them off the offensive glass, and hit open shots. Last season's 73-70 victory in Ames, the Cowgirls got 11 offensive rebounds which gave them 15 second chance baskets and had ended up with 15 more shot attempted than the Cyclones - allowing them to stay in the game.
Oklahoma State is 13-1 on the season but has only played in one true road game, a 58-51 victory at Kansas State in front of 3,793 fans. Playing inside Hilton could come as a shock to the Cowgirls Saturday.
I believe the Iowa State coaching staff really wants this game. Not just because it's a great test for their team, and playing a top 15 program at home, but also because they remember losing by 29 in Stillwater last winter, where the Cowgirls coaching staff didn't begin subbing out the starters until the final three minutes of the game. With both teams being very equal in most statistical categories it will come down to the basic traits to winning any game; controlling the tempo, make shots and rebound. The Cyclones win the hard-fought battle, 73-65.