Similar endings to Big 12 tournament for men, women teams

Jeremiah Davis

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Two Cyclone teams played games Wednesday, and two Cyclone teams lost the same way.

Both the ISU men’s and women’s basketball teams played close games in their respective Big 12 Tournament contests, with the women falling to Kansas State 56-53 and the men losing to Colorado 77-75. 

While both games were decided in the final seconds, how they got there was just a little different. The women trailed the entire way, and were even down 11 at one point to a team they beat twice in the regular season before coming within a Kelsey Bolte forced 3-pointer from extending the game. The men had six ties and 16 lead changes with Colorado before failing to pull out a close one yet again.

Both losses were disheartening, but more so for the men than the women.

For coach Fred Hoiberg, the loss likely means the end of his first season at the helm of his Alma Mater because with a 16-16 overall record and only three wins in conference play, it is highly unlikely the Cyclones see postseason play.

The third edition of Iowa State vs. Colorado, though, is the nail in the coffin for the ISU men. The theme of the Big 12 season was not being able to close out games, and that theme was perfectly represented Wednesday. 

To put it simply, one word sums up what this season has been for the Cyclones: frustrating. 

For players such as Jake Anderson and Jamie Vanderbeken, whose pro prospects aren’t as bright as maybe Diante Garrett’s are, this might be the last chance they get to play a meaningful game. 

Now they get to, presumably, head back to Iowa State to finish their senior years of college and watch March Madness from their couches.

Coach Bill Fennelly, on the other hand, likely will have an NCAA tournament to prepare for.

“I think if you look at our numbers, we probably are a team that should be considered,” Fennelly said. “We’ve done what we can do now. We’ll wait until next Monday and hopefully our name will come up. If not, we didn’t do enough.”

Fennelly’s team hasn’t had what could be described as a great game since its demolition of Kansas at home March 1, when it won 72-36. Since then, the women lost to Missouri on the road, a team that ended up as the No. 10 seed for the Big 12 Tournament, and scraped past last-place Nebraska for the opening round win in the tournament.

A loss to a team the Cyclones had already beaten twice can’t leave a good taste in their mouths heading into the NCAA tournament.

But as was probably predicted by many, the focus for the two teams from Ames who played Wednesday now shifts to next season for the men and the rest of this month for the women. 

Fennelly, Bolte and company will have to regroup and focus on extending their season as long as possible, while Hoiberg gets to finally bring his corps of redshirt transfers off the scout team.

And for Hoiberg, I don’t think this season is one he’ll necessarily want to forget. Yes, the close losses won’t be fun to remember, but they’re key teaching points for him as a coach going forward. Some things as a player and coach you can only learn by experiencing, and coaching in crunch time is one of them.

Regardless of what lies ahead for either team, the trip to Kansas City didn’t end the way either had hoped. Instead of confident, Cyclone fans have to be concerned about the NCAA tournament chances for the women, and dejected about another mediocre men’s season. 

It won’t take long, though, for Cyclone nation to look at what does lie ahead.

They more than likely already are.