clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

Game of the Day: Iowa State faces Baylor needing to find a rhythm in conference play

Big XII foes Baylor and Iowa State face each other for the first time this season with Iowa State trying to find a rhythm before the tournament.


#6 Baylor Lady Bears (22-3) vs. Iowa State Cyclones (17-7)

8 p.m. EST

Ferrell Center - Waco, TX

TV: Fox College Sports Central (Grande 227, Time Warner 430, DirecTV 623, not available on Dish Network)

WBB State preview statistics statistics

Prior to the Oklahoma-Oklahoma State game this past weekend, we briefly discussed why Steven Bell of the S-Factor doesn't have Iowa State projected to make the 2014 NCAA Tournament: "a sustained and inexplicable suck-freefall".

However, where I'd differ is that their struggles in conference play are probably not all that "inexplicable" - the explanation might lie with the shift in role for senior forward Hallie Christofferson, which was described by Jason Orts of the Waco Tribune in a preview of today's game against Baylor.

Iowa State coach Bill Fennelly has been with the team since the 1995-96 season, and his teams like to fire from long distance.

The Cyclones are expected to start with four guards on the floor, and their lone inside presence, Hallie Christofferson, has played on the perimeter for most of her career despite standing (6-foot-3)...Christofferson's ability to play inside and out makes her a matchup problem, because Baylor will have to put one of its bigger players on her. That's difficult because Christofferson has the skill to drive by a larger defender on the perimeter.

That versatility is part of the reason she's the second-leading scorer in the conference with 19.1 points per game. If she can take her defender away from the basket, it also limits Baylor's rebounding options.

The Cyclones aren't really playing Christofferson in the post by choice: as the tallest rotation player on a team that simply lacks size, she's really their only legitimate low post threat with both Chelsea Poppens and Anna Prins having graduated last year. What that means for their offense is that she's getting her shots differently and it might not be to the benefit of the team.

Last year, 40% of Christofferson's shots were from the three point line and she made 40%, which was good for third on the team; thus far this season, she's shooting just 27% of her shots from three point range and making only 30.2%. The upside is that she's getting to the free throw line considerably more often: she already has a career-high 151 free throw attempts this season with four games left in conference play after today.

In short, Christofferson is getting a whole lot more scoring opportunities inside the arc and it has taken away from her role as a perimeter threat.

The numbers pretty much match observation: whereas Orts is correct that Christofferson can go by bigger defenders on the perimeter, she's also getting a lot more attempts in the paint where defenders are content to muscle her before contesting her shots. That helps to explain why Christofferson's field goal percentage has dropped from 51.6% last season to 46.3% this season: she's playing a different role for the Cyclones this year and it's produced mixed results, both for her individually and for the team as a whole.

For Iowa State, it means their best offensive threat is taking more shots, making less shots and getting less points on the ones she does make; defensively, they simply have less options with which to guard opposing posts, which has gotten Christofferson in foul trouble in a few of their losses. Other players like sophomore Nicole Kidd Blaskowski and junior Nikki Moody have stepped up, but the team is relying heavily on a less-efficient Christofferson this season.

As Bell notes, Iowa State will be hosting a NCAA sub-regional regardless of what his ratings or anyone else's say (they're rated from 26-53 depending on which ratings you look at). The question is whether they'll actually be playing in said tournament: Creme says they have enough, Bell doesn't think so.

Of course, Baylor has a senior whose role changed dramatically this season in guard Odyssey Sims. And it's working out pretty well for her: she leads the nation in scoring, is a candidate for Player of the Year, and will almost certainly be a lottery pick in the 2014 WNBA Draft. Christofferson might join Sims in having her name called on draft day, but for now the Cyclones have to figure out how to win consistently again.

For more on the draft, check out our 2014 WNBA Draft prospect watch storystream.