ISU women go back to basics, get more vocal to end skid

Rob Gray
Published: January 21 2014 | 8:49 am - Updated: 29 March 2014 | 2:25 am in
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 AMES — Iowa State women’s basketball coach Bill Fennelly used to joke about his team’s quiet nature.

The smiles have faded with respect to that topic now — especially in the wake of a three-game losing streak.

“He told us the joke’s over,”  Cyclones guard/forward Brynn Williamson said. “You can’t win games like that.”

Not recently, anyway.

A more vocal ISU (14-3, 3-3 Big 12) aims to shake off its head-scratching funk at 6 p.m. today when Oklahoma (11-7, 2-3) brings its fast-breaking style to Hilton Coliseum.

The Sooners rank second in the Big 12 in scoring offense at 79.9 points per game.

The also-up tempo Cyclones beat them 82-75 in overtime two weeks ago, but have won one game since.

“When you go through a week like we went through, you spend a lot of time laying in bed, wide awake, worrying about your team,” ISU coach Bill Fennelly said. “You’ve got to worry about Oklahoma, too, but we’ve got a lot more focus on what we’re doing and that’s kind of the way we approached practice (Sunday) and we’ll do the same (Monday).”

Drills.

Basics.

Hard-nosed execution.

“We’re going to stick together,” Cyclones’ sixth woman Kidd Blaskowsky said. “We’re going to trust our coaches and we’re going to come back.”

Case in point: Sunday before practice.

“We had about a 10-minute talk before practice about life and how things go,” said Fennelly, whose team showed resilience in Saturday’s 80-74 upset loss at Kansas State by making it a one-possession game after trailing by 16 points with 4:15 left. “You make choices.”

ISU’s comeback at Manhattan came after it shot 4 of 15 from 3-point range in the first half.

That — until an 8 of 14 effort from long distance in the second half — made the Cyclones 9 of 52 (17.3 percent) in five straight halves of losses.

Why so icy?

There’s not just one explanation.

“We’ve been defended a little bit better,” Fennelly said. “But the other thing is it is a bit contagious. And I think our team, it’s more we’re passing up shots we should be taking. And we did that again Saturday and then you’re forced to take a shot that’s not as good.”

To help players’ better define their roles and responsibilities, Fennelly and his staff asked them to write down how they would impact games going forward.

Williamson said she chose these words: “To help teammates do what they do best.”

Blaskowsky?

“I wrote I’m going to stay positive on and off the court and bring energy off the bench,” she said.

Again, the little things.

A sharper focus.

More accountability for a team that’s generally very accountable.

“You could just tell that it’s another level,” Williamson said of Sunday’s practice. “There’s a little bit of edge to all of us that we really need to win. We’re tired of losing, really.”

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