Free ride in Kansas City

Jeremy Gustafson

KANSAS CITY, Mo. – If the ISU women’s basketball team needed any practice shooting free throws, it certainly got it Tuesday night in the first round of the Big 12 Conference Tournament.

The Cyclones made 36 of 42 freebies en route to an easy win over Nebraska, 74-55.

“I think like anything else – it’s contagious when you miss and it’s contagious when you make them,” ISU head coach Bill Fennelly said.

It was actually senior center Angie Welle who did a bulk of the shooting. Welle finished 16 of 20 from the free-throw line. In all she recorded a double-double with 22 points and 10 rebounds. She also tied the school record for free throws made and broke the record for attempts.

She was most excited about being the one shooting the free throws and not the one sending somebody to the line.

“Usually I’m the one doing all the fouling, so it’s kind of nice to be on the other end,” Welle said.

The Cornhuskers end their season at 14-16, despite launching 20 more shots than the Cyclones.

Nebraska finished 20 of 61 from the field (32.8 percent) while the Cyclones made 41.5 percent of their shots (17 of 41.)

Iowa State out rebounded the Huskers 40-31.

But the free throws were the story of the game.

“It’s an important part of our game,” Fennelly said. “I think we’re a team that gets fouled a lot. If you look at our stats, it’s not something that’s rare.”

The Cyclones failed to pull away from the Huskers as Nebraska was determined to make a game of it.

Katie Robinette, who scored eight points and Alexa Johnson with 10, led the way for Nebraska, which was within 10 with 12:55 to go.

Then Welle hit a lay up and free throw and Mary Cofield drained a three-pointer to ignite a 10-0 run to seal the win.

“I think we did a great job at that point of taking care of the ball,” Fennelly said. “We only turned the ball over six times in the second half.”

The big win allowed Fennelly to put in reserve players, giving `The Big Three’ of Welle, Lindsey Wilson and Tracy Gahan a rest.

“Before the game I said `The Big Three’ had to carry us in this game because of the nerves of the younger kids,” Fennelly said. “Angie, Lindsey and Tracy played great and dictated the flow of the game from the start.”

To go along with Welle’s stellar performance, Wilson and Gahan each scored 14.

And they all got at least seven minutes of rest, which will come in nicely when sixth-seeded Iowa State (22-7) faces third-seeded Colorado tonight at 8:30.

Fennelly, however, insists that despite the number of minutes they play, his stars will be ready.

“They’re kids,” he said. “We’re gonna play 40 minutes tomorrow. There’s nine million media timeouts, it’s a 40-minute game and you’re 18, 19 years old. If you can’t get excited about playing in the quarterfinals of this tournament – we’ve got plenty of time to rest.”

Iowa State took a 41-31 lead into halftime thanks in large part to a pair of big runs and solid free throw shooting.

The Cyclones took an early 9-0 lead with Wilson knocking down two free throws and a three-pointer.

Later in the half, a 12-0 run put Iowa State up by 16. Wilson, Melanie Bremer, Mary Fox, Gahan and Welle all contributed to the run.

Welle scored 16 in the half, 12 from the free throw line. Wilson added 12 of her own.

Turnovers prevented the Cyclones from stretching the lead. Iowa State turned the ball over 12 times and Nebraska converted the miscues into 15 points.

The Cornhuskers weren’t too sharp either as Iowa State took advantage of nine Husker turnovers, turning them into 12 points.

Nebraska also committed 13 personal fouls.

In the half, Iowa State made 21 of 24 free throws; more than half of its total points came from the foul stripe.

“When you get the opportunity you’ve got to convert them,” Fennelly said. “Everybody was making them tonight.”