Bill Fennelly and the Cyclones have made a decision to push the ball this season, to try and score in transition and create mismatches on the offensive end.
So far, it's working.
The Cyclones are averaging more than 84 points per game this season, more than 14 points better than last season through the first four games. Two key reasons why? Jadda Buckley and Seanna Johnson, the two starting freshmen guards.
Each are averaging around 28 minutes a game, with identical scoring averages of 9.8 points per contest
"They both came in with high expectations and we need them to play to those expectations," associate head coach Jodi Steyer told AllCyclones. "Even though they are playing different positions, in a weird way they are filling in for Chelsea Poppens and Anna Prins.
"We told them when recruiting them that the game would be faster, and stronger, and then you add the whole thought process for someone like Jadda who is our point guard and has to know not only the point guard position but all the positions and where they need to be. So she has to become that mental coach on the floor, and that's been a challenge."
"The first few games were great to get under our belt and feel what it was like to be out there on the court, learning those adjustments," said Buckley. "I don't know if it's slowed down a lot but I've done a better job of adjusting to it and learn what to expect in certain situations. Sometimes you get caught up and real excited on the court and my teammates are good at telling me to relax, stay focused and play my game — which has been nice."
Johnson, the former two-time Minnesota Basketball Class 3A Player of the Year, was just named Big 12 Newcomer of the Week after back-to-back double-digit scoring nights, 13 at Cincinnati and 14 points at Drake, which she paired with a team-high 11 rebounds.
"It's been a big adjustment [from high school] so far, but I'm a quick learner," Johnson said. "I'm getting more comfortable with playing in the post and I have great tutors in watching Hallie [Christofferson] and Nikki each day in practice. Coach tells me to play my game and not worry about it so much. I need to do what comes natural to me on the court and keep working hard."
Added Fennelly: "Seanna is a kid that can score. She has a history of scoring. The number one thing we want her to try and do is become a very good free throw shooter. I'm more worried about that than her field goal percentage because I think she is going to get fouled given the new rules."
It's still very early in the season, but the Cyclones are thrilled with the way the two young guards have jumped in immediately and meshed with point guard Nikki Moody. Buckley is second on the team with 10 assists and only three turnovers on the season. Johnson is averaging 9.8 points and over six rebounds per contest and with her speed on the wing and down in the post, can create matchup nightmares for opposing teams. Just two more reasons why the future looks so bright the next few years.
"We've had some very good freshmen who have come in here and played right away, and they are following those same footsteps," Steyer said. "It's hard work and the expectations are the same as the seniors in that you go out there and play as hard as you can and give us what you need. Every game they play it will get a little better and you will see them get a little more comfortable."