In the market for “makers”

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Iowa State women’s basketball has made post-season play 17 times with Bill Fennelly as the coach. That remarkable run has been rooted in doing things the “Iowa State Way”.

On the court, the Iowa State Way includes shooting and making three pointers.

All but one (1997) of Fennelly’s tourney teams attempted at least 600 three-pointers for the season.

His five most accomplished teams (Elite Eights in 1999 and 2009 and Sweet 16s in 2000, 2001 and 2010) combined to make 38% from long range. His other 12 post-season squads connected on less than 35% from the three-point arc.

That’s the backdrop for what Fennelly shared at media day leading into his 20th season at ISU.

“We shoot a lot of 3’s,” Fennelly suggested. “We’ve got a lot of shooters on this this team. We need more makers. Our three-point percentage has got to go up. We made a lot of them (last year), but we shot a lot of them.”

The Cyclones have made 32.6% of their three-point shots in the last three years combined. That number has to climb according to the coach.

“We might have the least amount of experience and productivity in the post (than anyone),” Fennelly said. “(But), our guards should be pretty good.”

Fennelly welcomes back three guards with double figure scoring averages (Nikki Moody, Jadda Buckley and Seanna Johnson) from last year. He’s never had that luxury previously.

Good guard play for Fennelly normally translates to good distance shooting. His sparkling resume is built on that reputation.

Hoiberg looks to match remarkable team chemistry of a year ago

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Fred Hoiberg started his media day news conference talking about last year’s Cyclone team. His focus was on that club’s camaraderie.

The thing about that team … was how they came together,” Hoiberg said. “The chemistry that developed for that team was as good as any team I’ve played on and as good as all the teams I’ve coached.”

After those brief comments about last year, Hoiberg quickly shifted gears to the coming season.

He began by sharing early impressions of his new players:  Bryce Dejean-Jones, Jameel McKay, Abdel Nader, Georgios Tsalmpouris and Clayton Custer.

Like he has in his four prior years, Hoiberg is adding a lot of new faces to the roster. Developing roles and instilling a selfless mindset is at the top of his to-do list.

“That’s what I’m looking for with this group,” Hoiberg said in reference to how the ‘13-14 team quickly integrated the new players with the returnees.

This year’s returnees – Georges Niang, Dustin Hogue, Monte Morris, Naz Long, Matt Thomas, Sherron Dorsey-Walker and Daniel Edozie – are talented and seasoned.

The coach likes his roster pieces – both the new and the old – and he’s anxious to start fitting them together.

Based on his track record, Hoiberg does some of his best work this time of the year as he builds that team camaraderie.

One “special” phase of the game has been exemplary for ISU

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Here’s a little secret about the 2014 Iowa State football team.

It is winning one phase of the game every week and doing so in a pretty dominating fashion.

Special teams. Kicking, covering kicks and returning kicks.

The Cyclones rank in the Top 15 nationally in four different measures:  punt returns (2nd), kickoff return defense (7th), punt return defense (10th) and net punting (12th).

Iowa State leads the Big 12 in four team statistical categories and they’re all on specialty units: punt returns, punting, field goal percentage (tied) and extra point percentage (tied).

In addition,

  • If Jarvis West had enough attempts to qualify (he has four), he would be No. 2 in the NCAA in punt return average (29.2), and he has an 82-yard TD to his credit.
  • Freshman punter Colin Downing and his unit’s coverage team has surrendered just eight punt return yards all season.
  • Cole Netten is perfect on both FGs and PATs and he made a game-winning 42-yard field goal with two seconds left at Iowa.

Winning two of the three phases in any football game is a good predictor for a victory.

If the Cyclones can continue the positive trend it has exhibited on special teams through four games, it should only take one more phase to push the Cyclones past the finish line.

Smoke & mirrors or leverage & angles: “got to fix it” Rhoads says

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Whether it’s smoke and mirrors or better leverage and angles doesn’t matter to Iowa State football coach Paul Rhoads. He simply wants to see a more productive running game from his Cyclones.

“We are averaging just over 100 yards per game and our quarterback – not by design – is our top runner,” Coach Paul Rhoads said Monday. “We’ve got to fix it.”

Part of the problem has been the competition.

3rd. 13th. 16th. 6th.

Those are the national rankings of North Dakota State, Kansas State, Iowa and Baylor for rushing defense. Surprisingly, ISU gained more rushing yards than the Bison, Wildcats and Bears have given up on average. The only time that didn’t happen was vs. Iowa when the Cyclones were victorious.

More important than the opposition, however, is Iowa State’s ability to get better. That is what it can control

“We need to do a better job of blocking and that’s not just the interior five,” Rhoads said. “Our running backs need to do a better job running the football. And, you have to scheme things up sometimes when you don’t have the horses.”

ISU is 20-7 when it outgains the opponent on the ground during the Rhoads’ era. The mark is 7-32 when it is outrushed. The Cyclones are 27-26 when gaining at least 100 yards on the ground and 1-11 (the win was against Iowa this fall) when they don’t since Rhoads arrived.

“You’ve got to run the ball and defend the run if you’re going to be successful,” Rhoads said. “We all know we’re not running the ball well enough.”

Better opponent, better result; improvement continues

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The competition was better.

A year ago, 12th-ranked Baylor hosted Iowa State. Saturday night, the No. 7 Bears visited Ames.

“This Baylor team, in my opinion, is better than the one from a year ago,” Coach Paul Rhoads said.

The results were better.

ISU suffered a humbling loss last fall against the Bears. The Cyclones were competitive early when the schools played last weekend.

“One of our goals was to start positively and we did that,” Rhoads said. “Being at 14-7 at the end of the first quarter gave us a chance to compete.”

The gains from 2013 to 2014 means that Paul Rhoads’ team continued its improvement trend.

“To do some of the things we did against them (leads me to believe) we improved against them,” Rhoads said.

The Cyclone offense sputtered early Saturday, but it got on track.

ISU ran 13 more plays against Baylor than a year ago and averaged 1.7 yards more per play. Iowa State had a season-long 92-yard scoring drive. The team’s third-down conversion percentage was 10% higher and it nearly doubled its total offense (339-174) and did have twice as many first downs (18-9) as the prior time the schools met.

The Cyclone defense also made gains in many areas.

Baylor rushed for 47 yards fewer, passed for 66 yards fewer and averaged more than a yard-and-a-half less per offensive snap. ISU held the Bears to 22 fewer points than the match-up in Waco a year ago. The Cyclones also managed a sack and turnover, and they did neither last year.

In its first three games of ‘14, Baylor had jumped to leads of 35-0, 28-0 and 45-0. When the Bears opened with TDs on two first quarter two drives, you wondered if more of the same was coming. Much like its game vs. K-State several weeks back, however, Iowa State rallied.

That resiliency is important. Add in continued improvement in the coming weeks and the win-loss ledger could very well start to even out.

ISU offense vs. Baylor defense features two coaches with similar tales

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One of the interesting matchups when Baylor visits Iowa State this weekend will be a chess match between Iowa State offensive coordinator Mark Mangino and Baylor defensive coordinator Phil Bennett.

It’s an important match-up because it will likely influence time of possession, which is potentially Iowa State’s best friend.

The coaches’ backgrounds are eerily similar and their reputations as coordinators widely respected.

Mangino played collegiately at Youngstown State and later served two separate tenures on the Penguins’ coaching staff. Bennett was a defensive end at Texas A&M and eventually served two terms as an Aggie assistant.

Both Mangino and Bennett (1983-86 as defensive coordinator) have coached at Iowa State.

Each man spent time working for Bill Snyder at Kansas State, but not at the same time. Bennett was the Wildcats’ defensive coordinator from 1999-2001. Mangino worked with the K-State offensive line from 1991-98.

Both coached at Oklahoma, but during different eras. Mangino was line coach (1999) and offensive coordinator (2000-01) for the Sooners, while Bennett led their secondary in 1997.

Bennett was a head coach at SMU for six years and compiled a 19-51 record. Mangino led the Kansas program for eight seasons and built a 50-48 record.

As direct competitors, Mangino and Bennett have been on opposite sidelines three times previously:

• Oct. 19, 1996: K-State defeated Texas A&M, 23-20
• Oct. 14, 2000: Oklahoma defeated K-State, 41-31
• Sept. 29, 2001: Oklahoma defeated K-State, 38-37

The fourth match-up is Saturday night and the competition between their units (ISU offense vs. Baylor defense) will be one of the key storylines.

Time is what’s on Paul Rhoads’ mind

On the one hand, football coach Paul Rhoads felt he had too much time on his hands.

“We’ve had two weeks to prepare for Baylor,” Rhoads, whose club is coming off a bye week, said. “I’m not so sure that two days wouldn’t be better. We’d be less scared in that time frame for preparation.”

Baylor is quick-strike again in 2014. That’s the way they play. Rhoads doesn’t want an offensive battle with the nation’s highest-scoring offense.

In 79 games as Baylor’s coach, Art Briles has watched his team score 3,016 points. It took the Bears 155 games to score that many points prior to his arrival in Waco.

On the other hand, Rhoads is looking for even more time (with possession of the ball) vs. Baylor.

With BU’s ability to score, Rhoads is focused on clock management and making first downs when the teams meet Saturday at 7:20 p.m.

“We have to shorten the game,” Rhoads said. “It’s been evident through three games that we’re not operating at a fast tempo. The bigger piece is not when you’re snapping the ball (on the play clock) but keeping it and getting first downs.

In last year’s game in Waco, the Cyclones managed a season-low nine first downs and endured six three-and-out series. That must change.

“(Our goal) is not to have three long plays but instead having 13 long plays and ending up in the end zone,” Rhoads said.

Shutting down Baylor is improbable, so keeping the ball away from the Bears is a prerequisite for team success.

Believe it or not: Rhoads says Bears are run first.

Baylor is the only school in the NCAA that has averaged better than 340 yards passing in each of the last four seasons.

“I do believe they are run-first,” Iowa State Coach Paul Rhoads said Monday.

Perplexed? Don’t be. The Bears are equally dangerous via the ground game.

“As explosive as they are in the pass game, you better stop their run game to have a chance to have overall success.”

Baylor is joined by Army, Navy, Air Force, Georgia Tech, Wisconsin and Northern Illinois as the only schools in the nation to run for at least 230 yards per game in each of the last four campaigns.

Guard against the long pass play and they tickle you underneath. Stack up too many people near the line and they’ll fire missiles downfield.

The orchestra leader is Bryce Petty. Rhoads thinks he should be the Heisman Trophy front-runner in 2014.

“I told Art (Briles) a year ago that I felt he (Petty) was better than the two previous (Baylor QBs – Robert Griffin and Nick Florence),” Rhoads said. “He’s that good of a football player.”

Rhoads credited the Baylor offense’s ability to adjust to what the defense shows and do so after the snap.

“It’s extremely unique,” Rhoads said.

It’s extremely productive, too.

Cyclones’ schedule was key in Iowa Corn Cy-Hawk Series victory

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The Iowa State volleyball team swept Iowa Saturday afternoon to assume a 7-0 lead in the annual Iowa Corn Cy-Hawk Series, but match scores didn’t indicate the closeness of the competition.

“It’s an interesting match (vs. Iowa) because they always seem to play 10 times better than what you saw on film,” Coach Christy Johnson-Lynch said. “It’s the rivalry. We know how much it means to the series and it’s important for us to contribute.”

The Cyclones’ schedule – having a full week to prepare – was key according to the head coach.

“This match kept me up all night, all week,” Johnson-Lynch said. “There’s a lot going on with their offense. They run a lot of different plays and there is quite a bit to keep track of.”

Earlier this season, the Cyclones hosted national powers Stanford and Florida State in the AVCA Showcase. The match against the Seminoles, in particular, was great preparation for Iowa.

“I would compare them (Iowa) to Florida State,” Johnson-Lynch said in regards to match preparation. “Luckily, we had a week to prepare and that helped a lot.”

The win was the Cyclones’ 10th in a row against Iowa. It wasn’t easy, however, and good scheduling was a major factor.

Rhoads teaching his Cyclones to believe and they’re learning

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There is a mental resolve with this Iowa State football team and it was on full display Saturday in Iowa City.

As he left the field at halftime, Coach Paul Rhoads told the Cyclone Radio Network audience that his team needed to believe it could win despite facing a 14-3 deficit. The Cyclones had just suffered a damaging end zone fumble as they left the field.

Additionally, ISU faced a negative 10-minute margin in time of possession. Only three times previously – Army (2009), Kansas (2010) and UConn (2011) – in Rhoads’ tenure had his club suffered a 10-minute TOP deficit in the opening half and recovered to win.

But, Rhoads was intent on coaxing a comeback out of his troops. He believed his team could rally because he witnessed a strong will a week earlier vs. K-State.

Trailing the Wildcats 13-0 in the first quarter (and being outgained 176-4 to that point), the Cyclones went to work. Sam Richardson hit 5-5 passes on a scoring drive that cut the margin to 13-7 vs. the Wildcats.

That scoring drive in desperate circumstances was symbolic of the determination this team has.
It was the beginning of a foundation that Rhoads is trying to build upon. Against Iowa, Rhoads added more bricks and mortar.

“That (Iowa) game was won between the ears,” Rhoads said. “One of the things for the week was that we couldn’t have any doubt we would win the game.”

Getting better at throwing, tackling, kicking, running and catching is all part of the coaching curriculum. Rhoads, however, might be making more gains with building a belief.

“I’m a teacher,” said the son of a former high school coach and former teacher. “I love lessons. Through two weeks, we’ve had a lot of lessons to learn from.”

Lesson learned. The payback was Iowa State’s third win in four years of the Iowa Corn Cy-Hawk Series.