Before the start of the season many Cyclone fans would not have guessed that in late December the women’s basketball team would be undefeated and ranked 14th in the nation. Not that this was out of the realm of possibility by any means, but after losing the two tallest starters and two WNBA draft picks in Chelsea Poppens and Anna Prins there were many justified question marks and assumptions placed on this year’s team. However, nine games into the season assumptions don’t seem to mean anything to this Iowa State team, as they have unexpectedly squashed many of them.
For starters, it was expected the Cyclones would get outrebounded this season after losing one of the best rebounders in school history in Chelsea Poppens. However, the Cyclones have not been outrebounded in any game this season and are outrebounding opponents by an average of 8.0.
I’m sure you want an explanation for this and frankly there really isn’t a singular explanation, but it seems the Cyclones have taken rebounding seriously. This season, the rebounding starts with Hallie Christofferson and Seanna Johnson. It was expected for Christofferson to be a huge factor in the rebounding game, as she averaged 6.7 boards last season, but Johnson’s rebounding has been unexpected. Johnson is averaging 8.7 rebounds per game placing her second in the Big 12 and first among Big 12 freshmen. In ISU’s last game, she grabbed 16 rebounds, the most by a freshman since Poppens nabbed 17.
After the Cyclones’ starting five was revealed, listing two freshmen in the lineup, many anticipated that inexperience would hurt the Cyclones, but so far (knock on wood) that hasn’t been the case. In fact, Iowa State’s freshmen Johnson and Jadda Buckley have shown on many occasions why they earned the starting job. The duo has earned three of the last seven Big 12 Freshman of the Week awards. Iowa State is the only team in the top-25 with two freshmen averaging 9.0 points or more. The Cyclones are also the only team in the top-25 to have started two freshmen in every game this season.
With such a young team It’s pretty crazy to see how successful the Cyclones have been. Only seven teams in the country remain undefeated, and of those teams, just defending national champion Connecticut and No. 14 Iowa State has downed every opponent by 11 or more points.
Here is a look at a few key stats and figures that have contributed to the success of this young Cyclone team.
Protect the Ball
Iowa State is currently third in the nation in turnovers per game, averaging just 11.3. This is a huge difference from last year’s 18.3 turnovers per contest.
Last season the Cyclones led the nation in free-throw percentage making 80.5 percent at the charity stripe. That trend has continued this season with ISU shooting 80.6 percent at the line.
The Cyclones also have a knack for getting to the free-throw line. Iowa State has scored 26 percent of its points at the charity stripe, which is more than any team in the Big 12 and pending further research probably more than nearly any team in the nation. Last season at this time just 15.6 percent of ISU’s points per game were made at the charity stripe. Obviously the new rules have a little something to do with the increase in scoring at the free-throw line, but ISU has clearly shown a knack for drawing fouls.
Iowa State has three student-athletes averaging double-figures and three more averaging over 8.0 points per contest. Anyone one the court has the capability to knock down a shot, making it a nightmare for opposing teams to defend. The Cyclones balanced offense is the main reason ISU is 21st in the nation is scoring offense, averaging 82.1 points.
With a 9-0 record entering the Cyclone Challenge and just two games separating Iowa State from an undefeated non-conference schedule, it’s time for Cyclone fans to simply sit back, enjoy the ride and maybe expect the unexpected.