The Iowa State Cyclones have had a tough past week. They lost to South Dakota on Wednesday before allowing a late Arkansas surge in the Big 12/SEC Challenge that helped the Cyclones escape by single digits. But all that — indeed, the entire season, if we’re being reckless — can be thrown out, because the CyHawk game is tonight, where anything can happen.
CyHawk (n.) — a matchup between the Iowa State Cyclones and the Iowa Hawkeyes
No matter who’s ranked and who isn’t, or which team is missing which players, the only thing of late that can be reasonably assured is that the home team will have the advantage. But even that surety is out the window going into this year’s meeting, as Iowa escaped with a 61-55 victory in Ames last season.
Iowa State is 6-1, but their loss to South Dakota came at a time when they were just clinging onto a spot in the top 25. So, despite their later win over Arkansas, the Cyclones exited the poll after just one week. The 5-2 Hawkeyes, meanwhile, started the season in the poll and, to this point, their two losses (to then-No. 1 Notre Dame and recent perennial rival Florida State) have meant a mini-skid downward from as high as No. 12 to their current No. 16, rather than an outright exit.
That said, a victory tonight on the Hawkeyes’ home floor could propel Iowa State back into the top 25, especially with No. 23 Missouri, No. 24 Gonzaga and No. 25 Miami not facing ranked teams this week (and No. 22 South Carolina seemingly being kept in the poll by something stronger than prayer).
The Cyclones are led by senior guard Bridget Carleton, a Canadian national team member who’s averaging a double-double this season. In last season’s meeting with Iowa, Carleton led Iowa State with 17 points, but more importantly, she sunk 11 of the Cyclones’ 12 made free throws. On a cold shooting night for both teams — Iowa barely won that battle, 37.9 to 29.5 percent — Carleton’s composure at the line kept Iowa State in the game.
Of course, Iowa State will also have to contend with the Hawkeyes’ Megan Gustafson, a legitimate scoring and rebounding machine who’s also averaging a double-double and has just one sub-20-point game this season (which was, incidentally, her only non-double-double so far, in the loss to Florida State). Despite being triple-teamed in last year’s CyHawk matchup, Gustafson still managed to score 16 points and grab 14 rebounds.
There’s never not a lot at stake when the CyHawk game rolls around, regardless of how much success each team has seen in the young season and where the rankings place them. When two of the best players in the country square off in an arena in Iowa, it’s going to be a good time.
Cyclones in action
Iowa State Cyclones (6-1) at No. 16 Iowa Hawkeyes (5-2)
Iowa won last year, 61-55, and leads the overall series 26-22.
When: Wednesday, Dec. 5, at 8 p.m. ET
Where: Carver-Hawkeye Arena, Iowa City, IA
Notes: Two big milestones could occur in this game, though the Cyclones will be looking to prevent both. Megan Gustafson is four rebounds away from breaking the Iowa rebounding record and 23 points away from hitting 2,000 for her career.
Elsewhere in the Big 12:
- The Big 12/SEC Challenge ended in a tie for the second straight year, with Kansas, TCU, Baylor, Iowa State and Kansas State picking up wins.
- Bridget Carleton (Iowa State) and Kalani Brown (Baylor) were named to the top 30 of the 2018-19 Senior CLASS Award. The award recognizes student athletes with “notable achievements in four areas of excellence: community, classroom, character and competition.”
- No. 4 Baylor came, saw and conquered South Carolina on Sunday, routing the Gamecocks 94-69 behind Kalani Brown’s 22 points and Chloe Jackson’s 19. The Lady Bears have over a week off before facing Morehead State on Dec. 12 (1 p.m. ET, FOX Sports Southwest/listen here).
- Kansas, the only other undefeated team in the Big 12, beat LSU in their Big 12/SEC Challenge game, 68-61. Kylee Kopatich led the Jayhawks with 14 points. Next up, Kansas travels to take on Nebraska tonight (8 p.m. ET, BTN Plus/listen here).
- No. 12 Texas will host No. 9 Tennessee on Sunday in a battle with top-10 implications. The game is at 1 p.m. ET on ESPN2.
- The state of Oklahoma swept the latest Big 12 weekly awards. Oklahoma State guard Braxtin Miller was named Player of the Week after scoring 30 points against Wichita State, making a career-high 8 assists against Texas State and scoring a further 29 points against Tennessee. Oklahoma guard Taylor Robertson was named Freshman of the Week for the third time this season, averaging 25 points in the Sooners’ two games last week, including seven three-pointers in each.