When Jim Littell filled out his preseason Big 12 ballot, he automatically penciled Iowa State into a spot in the top 3.
Why? Hilton Magic.
“I think it's the toughest place to play in the Big 12,” the Oklahoma State coach said. “I know how difficult it is to win in that place, and if you win all your home games, you're gonna be in the mix for a Big 12 championship.”
Quieting that rowdy road atmosphere will be OSU's challenge Saturday when it takes on the Cyclones in an intriguing early conference tilt between two top-15 teams.
The Cowgirls haven't won in Ames since 2007. And Iowa State doesn't simply rely on the aura of Hilton Coliseum.
The Cyclones have used stellar shooting — they lead the Big 12 in 3-point field goal percentage (38.5 percent) — to sprint out to a 14-0 start. Freshman Jadda Buckley leads the Big 12 in that category (55.8 percent), while 6-3 post Hallie Christofferson has even made 34.5 percent of her shots from beyond the arc.
“You cannot lay off of one shooter on the perimeter,” Littell said. “If you leave anybody open out there, they're gonna make shots, and especially when they play at home.
“They can get on a roll there, so we've got to do a good job of controlling the dribble-drive, keep people in front of us and not leave 3-point shooters.”
Perhaps the rims at Hilton can be kind to the visitors, too. Cowgirl scorers Liz Donohoe and Brittney Martin are both in the midst of offensive slumps, combining to make just 15 of 55 field goal attempts (27 percent) during Big 12 play.
“That's something that they've gotta (snap out of),” Littell said. “They've gotta put in more time working on their shot. It's just like a batter that's in a slump. You've gotta put in more time in the cage and you've gotta work your way out of it.”