Taking part in the South Point Shootout in Las Vegas, the Iowa State Cyclones were victorious Friday, defeating Eastern Michigan, 88-60.
The Cyclones are now 16-7 in these Thanksgiving Holiday tournaments over the past 10 years, and will face Auburn Saturday at 9:30 PM CST. Auburn is 4-2 after pulling out a 67-51 victory over Ball State earlier in the day.
"Auburn is completely different [than anyone we have played, they will] press and run," head coach Bill Fennelly said.
Many times these holiday tournaments can be a distraction, especially a bright-lights place like Vegas. Fennelly lets his players have fun but keeps the Cyclones in a disciplined routine:
"College kids are very tight, they won't spend any money. I could see Saturday night them all standing around a penny slot machine watching Hallie [Christofferson] put in two bucks. When it's time to play and practice you do it, but you don't take these trips to lock people in their hotel rooms. That's part of the collegiate experience and we are lucky that the school lets us do these kinds of things. We have study table on the road and do all the normal stuff, but a lot will have family there. They know it's a business trip and we will have fun too, as long as our kids handle it."
Besides playing the game and making time to have fun, the road is also a time for a team to build some chemistry.
"You learn a lot about yourself when you are on the road. You have a roommate, you eat together, you practice together, and you will live with these people for five straight days," Fennelly said. "That's where every coach will tell you, you learn a lot about your team. As you're a college athlete a lot of kids remember the one great game they had, but they remember a lot more about the stuff that happened on a bus or in a hotel room. Those are the things that make your college life a great experience."
After Friday's win, there are certain aspects of the game the Cyclones and the coaching staff is determined to work on to continue to get better.
"I think the biggest thing is have to rebound the ball better, get into our offense a little quicker, and a more consistent pace to the game," Fennelly said. "Defensively, we need to continue to get better with our attention to detail, and eliminate the mental mistakes.
"And finally, interesting to learn how we do on back to back nights. Can we get some consistency off the bench? Can we process the scouting report quickly? Nothing earth shattering, but continue to make progress as we head home [at the end of the week]. We've talked a lot about trying to finish November. [We have to] finish the four road games to end November, and practice hard. We've gotten through two and now we have two more opportunities before coming home to 3 home games."