Cyclones nearly upset No. 6 Sooners

Matt Gubbels

The Cyclones (11-3, 0-1 Big 12) still had a chance to tie, but sophomore Alison Lacey’s running three-pointer at the buzzer went in-and-out. Coach Bill Fennelly said he would like having no one other than Lacey taking that shot.

“There was seven seconds left and we ran a six second play,” Fennelly said. “We practice it every day in shootaround and you’re not going to get a great shot. That’s a shot she can make.”

That shot came after late game free throw shooting, in which the Sooners (10-2, 1-0) were able to take an advantage by hitting seven of eight free throws in the final minute, while Iowa State was only able to hit four of six. For the game, the Oklahoma shot 12 of 16 from the charity stripe, but the Cyclones hit only 15 of 24.

Fennelly said that free throw shooting was what decided the game.

“The thing that is discouraging is that you do a lot of the other things to give yourself a chance to win,” Fennelly said. “That has been problem for our team but we’ve managed to survive it because we’ve been ahead, but tonight it cost us the game.

“The level of separation in this league is so minuscule that we have to do some little things to win, and tonight we didn’t do that.”

A sluggish first half, where the Sooners used a late 9-0 run, set the stage for a back-and-forth, heartstopping finish. The Cyclones were able to forge ahead 44-41 by outscoring Oklahoma 23-10 in the first eight minutes of the second half, and forced national player of the year Courtney Paris to the bench with four fouls. Freshman Kelsey Bolte led that charge with 16 of her career-high 23 points by hitting several tough shots on a day where the only senior on the team, Toccara Ross, had surgery to repair a torn anterior cruciate ligament that she suffered against Minnesota on December 21.

“Over the past couple weeks, coach has just been trying to tell me to keep my effort up and play harder,” Bolte said. “If I play hard, good things will happen and I can create some things. I was just trying to do that.”

Oklahoma coach Sherri Coale said that run, where the two halves were so different, said a lot about Iowa State’s offense.

“You think about how many tough lay-ups they hit when we were riding them out,” Coale said. “They were making several tough finishes on the left side of the basket.”

Courtney Paris’s twin sister Ashley, however, was the player that hurt the Cyclones the most when Courtney was on the bench. Oklahoma spread the floor with four guards and was able to respond with a 14-2 run, in which Ashley scored seven points.

Ashley said that when her sister goes out she feels like she has to have more of a sense of urgency.

“I have to try and replace some of what left the court when she goes out,” Ashley Paris said. “I think Danielle and everyone else just stepped up.”

Robinson gave the Sooners a 60-50 lead with a tough jumper with 4:44 to go in the game, but Iowa State was able to bounce right back. Over the next four minutes, the Cyclones were able to force six straight Oklahoma turnovers and go on an 11-0 run. Junior Amanda Nisleit tied the game with a three with just under two minutes remaining, and Bolte hit a free throw to take a 61-60 lead with 55 seconds remaining.

Nisleit said the two runs in the second half says a lot about her team.

“Even when we were down, we still battled to try and get back,” Nisleit said. “It just wasn’t enough tonight.”

Coale said she felt fortunate to pull the game out after that, especially following the run of turnovers.

“Iowa State is a very well-coached basketball team and they made plays,” Coale said. “I feel like a broken record saying that but I have been here six times

and I’ve said that every time.”

Iowa State continues conference play Sunday when they will travel to Colorado to take on the Buffaloes at 3:00 p.m. at the Coors Events Center. The Buffaloes (12-2, 1-0) won 70-58 at Missouri on Wednesday.