Cyclones swat Yellow Jacket’s sting

Matt Gubbels

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

The ISU women’s basketball team was able to do that in its first-round matchup 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,” said coach Bill Fennelly. “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 rattled off a 22-5 spurt in the first nine minutes of the second half. Freshman Kelsey Bolte – who finished with a team-high 19 points – hit four 3-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 because her team was able to move the ball up the floor, she said.

“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 points, they didn’t quit. A 19-7 Georgia Tech run closed the game to a one-point margin with just under two minutes left on the clock. The Yellow Jackets (22-10) used their speed to get layups and 3-pointer openings for Jill Ingram, who scored a game-high 21 points.

ISU junior Amanda Nisleit, who had 11 points and 12 rebounds, said the athleticism of Georgia Tech was different from that of 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 Georgia Tech’s combined team speed was something he had not seen.

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

Iowa State was able to settle down, and Lacey hit a shot as the shot clock ran out to give the Cyclones a 56-53 lead. Ingram then sliced to the hoop for a layup, but Lacey came back down, got fouled and hit both free throws.

The Yellow Jackets had two looks at 3-pointers, but both missed by a considerable margin.

Georgia Tech got big games from Ingram and Jacqua Williams, who had 18 points – but its two leading scorers for the season, 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 ours 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 Iowa State’s 150th birthday.

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