ISU women fight off hard-charging Yellow Jackets late, advance to second round

Matt Gubbels

The 64 teams that reach the NCAA Tournament are just looking to do one thing when they take floor – Survive and move on to the next round.

The ISU women’s basketball team was able to do that in its first round match up with the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets, fighting off of a late run to pick up a 58-55 victory.

“Today was a microcosm of our season – not always pretty, not always smooth, but survive,” Fennelly said. “That’s something that’s been the hallmark of our kids and this program this entire season.”

The Cyclones (21-12) trailed 24-20 at halftime, but came out of the locker room on fire and ran off a 22-5 spurt in the first nine minutes of the second half. Freshman Kelsey Bolte, who finished with team-high 19 points, hit four three-pointers during that run.

“I thought we did a great job of stopping the three on (Heather) Ezell and (Alison) Lacey,” said Yellow Jacket coach Machelle Joseph. “Bolte stepped up and hit some huge shots.”

Bolte was able to get open on the back end of the suffocating Georgia Tech full-court, man-to-man and zone pressures and she said the reason for that was how her team was able to move the ball up the floor.

“They were always scrambling in a defense like that,” Bolte said. “We were able to get some open looks.”

Even though the Yellow Jackets fell behind by as many as 13, they did not quit. A 19-7 run closed the game to a one-point margin with just under two minutes remaining. The Yellow Jackets (22-10) used their speed to get layups and open three points looks for Jill Ingram, who scored a game-high 21 points.

Junior Amanda Nisleit, who had 11 points and 12 rebounds, said the athleticism of Georgia Tech was different than the scout team they prepared against this week.

“Coach was telling us all week in practice ‘You think these guys are fast? Just wait,'” Nisleit said. “They were very fast.”

Fennelly said their combined team speed was something he had not seen.

“It seemed like there was six or seven players on the court at time,” Fennelly said.

Iowa State was able to settle down and Lacey, who was held relatively in check, hit a shot with the shot clock buzzer going off to give the Cyclones a 56-53 lead. Ingram sliced to the hoop for a layup but Lacey responded with two free throws.

The Yellow Jackets had two looks at three-pointers but both missed by a considerable margin.

Georgia Tech got big games from Ingram and Jacqua Williams, who had eighteen points, but their two leading scorers, Janie Mitchell and Chioma Nnamaka, were held to a combined 10 points.

Fennelly said Iowa State’s changing defenses were designed to slow those two players down.

“Their defense is gamble with the pressure and our’s is gamble with the scouting report and personnel,” Fennelly said. “Two totally different approaches and that’s what makes this tournament so special.”

The Cyclones won in front of a nearly all cardinal and gold clad crowd of 9,054 on the 150th birthday of Iowa State.

“To me that was a heck of a birthday present,” Fennelly said.