A not-so-sweet ending: Cyclones fall to Bulldogs


Photo: William Deaton/Iowa State Daily

Anna Prins listens to head coach Bill Fennelly during a break in the game against the Baylor Lady Bears at the American Airlines Center on March 11, 2013.

Stephen Koenigsfeld

For the 14th time during coach Bill Fennelly’s tenure at Iowa State, his team went dancing in the NCAA Championship.

But a second-half rally by Iowa State wasn’t enough to erase the deficit, leaving Fennelly’s squad with a not-so-sweet ending.

In a bracket of 64 teams, the Cyclones (24-9, 12-6 Big 12) survived a home-court advantaged Gonzaga team in the first round, but eventually fell 65-60 against No. 4-seeded Georgia (27-6, 12-4 SEC) in the waning seconds of the second round in Spokane, Wash.

“It was a fun game; we lost to a great team and great players,” said senior Chelsea Poppens. “Just to play against a team that tough, especially our last game, there’s not a better way we’d want to go out.”

A slugfest between two powerful teams from two of the statistically best conferences in women’s basketball, the Lady Bulldogs were forced by a 2-3 zone of Iowa State to take many more perimeter shots than their normal 27-percent season average.

It was a typical March Madness game in the second round of the women’s NCAA Championship. Sophomore guard Nikki Moody hit a 3-pointer with three seconds left to tie the game 32-32 heading into halftime.

“They call it March Madness for a reason,” Fennelly said. “That’s college basketball, that’s the way the game should be played [and] a great women’s college game in the NCAA tournament.”

Georgia didn’t see its largest lead until 12 minutes left in the game. At that mark, it became apparent only one team would survive.

With 10 minutes left to play, the Lady Bulldogs pulled out to an 11-point lead. With time ticking down, hopes of a double-digit comeback were becoming less likely.

But this was March Madness; a chance for a Sweet Sixteen berth was on the line.

With about four minutes left in the game, Poppens landed her second 3-pointer, scored a turnover on the other end and got the ball to junior Hallie Christofferson for another 3-pointer.

“All I knew and all we knew, as a team, is we needed to keep pushing the ball,” said senior Anna Prins. “It was a really fun stretch at the end when we started to hit shots and started to get back into the game.”

In the final seconds of the game, the comeback fell short and all that was left was not the sweet taste of a Sweet Sixteen appearance, but that of bitter, season-ending careers.