Getting a sufficient number of wins in the non-conference basketball season is important for schools with NCAA Tournament aspirations. But, there are other goals, too,Iowa State’s Bill Fennelly uses the non-conference campaign to get his team prepared to face the rigors of playing in the toughest women’s basketball conference in the nation. This week the Cyclones defeated UNI at Cedar Falls and the benefits of that battle, Fennelly hopes, will pay dividends down the road. “We tried to impress on them, this is what it’s like to go on the road in the Big 12 and play a good team in a tough environment,” Fennelly said. “This environment is like a Big 12 environment. You’re going to play a highly motivated team.” The Panthers were scrappy all night and forced ISU to keep battling. “There were probably five times in the second half where I was on the verge of calling a timeout,” Fennelly said. “Every time they were within range of making it real interesting, we did something.” Facing those challenges and handling them reasonably well is a confidence booster. The Big 12 slate – which features six schools currently ranked in the nation’s Top 25 – will offer many similar obstacles in the coming weeks. Piling up wins is only one of the goals of the pre-season. Getting truly prepared through tough challenges, however, is likely more important for the journey ahead.
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