WOMEN’S BASKETBALL: Cyclones upset No. 20 Vanderbilt

Matt Gubbels

The ISU women’s basketball team used a stifling defense and big performances from seniors Alison Lacey and Heather Ezell to take down No. 20 Vanderbilt Saturday 55-51.

Lacey and Ezell both hit three 3-pointers and scored 20 and 18 points, respectively, for the Cyclones (11-2) along with being a part of a defensive effort that forced 27 turnovers and held the Commodores’ (11-4) leading scorer, Christina Wirth, to seven points.

“Both teams didn’t really shoot the ball well,” Lacey said. “It came down to defense and who wanted it at the end.”

Coach Bill Fennelly said he was proud of how his team found a way to win in a hard-fought game against a good team.

“That was not the most aesthetic thing to watch” Fennelly said. “Both teams just played their guts out.”

Both teams shot below 40 percent in the game and Vanderbilt outrebounded Iowa State 40-26 but the Cyclones had a 22-12 advantage in points off turnovers, while having 12 less turnovers than the Commodores.

“We did a good job of keeping our composure,” Ezell said. “There were a couple of times where it could have slipped, but we did a good job of slowing it down and not trying to rush things.”

After an Ezell jumper cut the Vanderbilt lead to 7-6 early in the game, Iowa State went nearly eight minutes without scoring. The Cyclones only allowed five points during that stretch, however, and after a jumper by freshman Whitney Williams broke the ice, they scored ten straight to take a 16-12 lead. Ezell and Lacey both hit threes during the run.

Lacey said struggling performances in big games with Iowa and Stanford fueled Iowa State to step up against Vanderbilt.

“Every time we have played a tough team we haven’t really played that well,” Lacey said. “We didn’t play great today, but we found a way to win.”

The Commodores cut the lead to 16-15, but Iowa State scored nine of the last 11 points of the half to take an eight-point lead into halftime. After Vanderbilt cut the lead to 33-26, Lacey hit two threes and sophomore Denae Stuckey scored in the paint to give the Cyclones’ their biggest lead of the game at 12.

Vanderbilt fought to within three in the final minute but Lacey sunk three of four free throws to ice the game.

“I told the kids before the game we are going to play a really good team, and if we beat a really good team, I hope that means we are going to be a really good team.” Fennelly said.

The Cyclones play one more non-conference game against IPFW Wednesday before opening Big 12 conference play at home Saturday against Andrea Riley and Oklahoma State.

Fennelly said this was a big win for his team and will hopefully give it confidence going into the very tough Big 12 conference.

“It showed what we can do in this building,” Fennelly said. “I hope the highlight of our season is not beating Vanderbilt; hopefully this is the start of something special.”