Women snap losing

Matt Gubbels

Junior Amanda Nisleit had only scored two points in her last three games and was taken out of the starting lineup two games ago.

But when coach Bill Fennelly put her back in the starting lineup Wednesday, she responded in a big way.

Nisleit led a balanced effort with a career-high 16 points and seven rebounds to help take the ISU women’s basketball team to a dominating 65-45 win over Colorado, snapping a three-game losing streak.

“She probably had the worst two minutes she could have had starting out the game,” Fennelly said. “After that, it was the [Nisleit] of old.”

Nisleit said it was great to get a confidence boost with the performance she had.

“I couldn’t have gotten open without my teammates setting great screens,” Nisleit said. “I just took advantage of the opportunity that I was given.”

Junior Heather Ezell said Nisleit brought a lot of heart to the team.

“That would not be there if she was not on the floor,” Ezell said. “She is the person who does the little things – dive on the floor, take a charge.”

The Cyclones (13-6, 2-4) had three other players in double figures, with freshman Kelsey Bolte scoring 15, sophomore Alison Lacey 15, and Ezell 14.

Lacey and Bolte were part of a defensive effort that held the Buffaloes (13-7, 2-5) to a near season-low in points and shut out freshman Brittany Spears, who scored 21 points in the Cyclones’ double-overtime win in Boulder. Colorado has had its two worst offensive games of the season, with 44 and 45 points in its last two games.

Fennelly said he challenged Bolte to step up, as she and Spears are two of the candidates for Big 12 Freshman of the Year.

“There is a lot of people here that are going to decide who is Big 12 Freshman of the Year, and I challenged her to ‘Let’s have them lean your way when they vote,'” Fennelly said. “We were helping all over the place, which we didn’t do last time.”

Ezell said the biggest key to stopping Spears was shutting her down off the dribble.

“I don’t know how many times she took us to the basket up there,” Ezell said. “We really tried to move our feet, stay in front of her, and not foul her.”

The Cyclones trailed, 12-9, with 11 minutes left but went on a 12-2 run that was sparked by a Lacey three. After Colorado cut the lead to three, Iowa State came right back with a 9-0 run, in which Nisleit hit two threes.

That run was made with no true center on the floor, as junior Jocelyn Anderson was on the bench with two fouls. Ezell said a change in offensive strategy – not shooting until there was 15 seconds or less on the shot clock – was a big part of that.

“We took care of the ball, and we were actually able to get good shots within the last 15 seconds, which was nice,” Ezell said.

The Cyclones, who led by 10 at the break, put the game out of reach with an 18-4 run in the first eight minutes of the second half. That stretch showcased the balance Iowa State had throughout the game, as all four of the double-figure scorers scored in that stretch. Colorado got no closer than 19 after that.

“I challenged them to be a team that wears the uniform the right way tonight,” Fennelly said. “Managing the game, making plays, and putting their teammates in good position is really important, and I thought they did that tonight.”

Senior Jackie McFarland, the only Colorado player to score in double figures in the Buffaloes’ last two games, led them with 18 points.

“I told her afterwards I will be the first one to send her a very nice graduation card,” Fennelly said. “I will be glad that she is moving on to the pros.”