By Rob Gray
AMES — Bright lights.
Iowa State freshman guard Jadda Buckley will truly experience her first Cy-Hawk Series rivalry game at 7 p.m. today when the No. 21 Hawkeyes (10-1) come to Hilton Coliseum.
As usual, the Mason City native will settle into her game on the defensive end for the No. 17 Cyclones, then see what flows from there.
“I love defense,” said Buckley, who leads ISU (8-0) with 13 steals. “That’s really where my passion’s at. Once I can get going on defense, I think it helps offensively.”
Buckley and fellow freshman Seanna Johnson both figure to be in the starting lineup for the Hallie Christofferson-led Cyclones, who haven’t lost to Iowa at home under Coach Bill Fennelly.
“I don’t think it’s going to bother them,” Fennelly said of his freshmen’s demeanor for the big game.
So far, little has fazed the duo.
Johnson, a 5-10 guard from Brooklyn Park, Minn., leads ISU with 7.8 rebounds per game.
Buckley, who stands 5-8, ranks second in assists at 2.5.
“It’s the big Iowa-Iowa State game,” she said. “It’s huge.”
Buckley attended the last two Cy-Hawk series games as a fan.
She’s 1-1 while sitting among the crowd.
“I actually think this is a game Jadda needs,” Fennelly said. “We’ve got to get her going a little bit more on a consistent basis and maybe the brighter the lights, the bigger the game, maybe that will be good for her. At least that’s what we’re hoping.”
Buckley becomes the primary ball handler when point guard Nikki Moody needs a rare breather.
She, like Moody and everyone else, will look to feed the versatile Christofferson early and often.
Christofferson — who’s also a native Iowan, from Hamlin — is averaging 25 points per game and shoots 57.4 percent from the field.
“A lot of people say they have an all-American because they’re promoting them,” Fennelly said of Christofferson, an honorable mention all-American last season. “We have one. That’s not for debate. Now it’s just a matter of what the ceiling is for her.”
And for the team, which is already off to its best start in 11 seasons.
A win over the highly-rated Hawkeyes would not only regain bragging rights (Iowa won 50-41 last season), but also enhance the March resume.
Regardless of outcome, the pace should be brisk.
Iowa enters the game ranked 19th in scoring offense at 84.1 points per game.
ISU’s ranked 24th, at 82.1.
“Some games, you’ve got to defend really, really well and some games there’s parts of them you’ve got to score, too,” Fennelly said. “We can’t go two to three minutes without scoring because I don’t know that we can slow them down that much. We’re going to have to figure out something.”MATLOCK JOINS BASKETBALL TEAM: ISU’s latest “recruit” just finished up a celebrated Cyclone career in volleyball. She’s 6-2 Tenisha Matlock, who Fennelly has brought in to provide depth after backup post Madison Baier suffered a season-ending knee injury in Sunday’s win over Cal State-Fullerton. “We’ve never done it before,” Fennelly said. “I don’t know if it’s going to work or not work, but she’s tall, she’s athletic, she’s physical. She’s got an engaging personality and she’s played on a winning team. If she can develop into any kind of basketball player and give us a couple minutes, great, If not, whatever.”