Welle led Cyclones in season that ended too soon

Jeremy Gustafson

It didn’t exactly end as most people had planned.

This column was supposed to come some time after the ISU women’s basketball team had won four games in Hilton and marched on to San Antonio.

But BYU spoiled those plans with a 75-69 win in the second round of the NCAA Tournament over spring break, bringing to an end the season and the careers of Angie Welle, Tracy Gahan, Kelly Cizek and Ashley Homeyer.

It certainly was an up-and-down season for those four and the rest of the team, highlighted by big wins. But there was also that nasty swing through Texas early in the Big 12 schedule.

Here’s a look back at some of the best players, best and worst games and predictions for next season.

Team MVP

Yeah, there’s the `Big Three’ but the biggest of them definitely stands alone as the team’s most valuable player – Angie Welle.

When you average 20.5 points and 11.3 rebounds per game, both best in the Big 12, it’s a pretty safe bet you’re the best player on any team.

She earned second-team All-American honors and finished her career as the Cyclones’ all-time leading scorer (2,149) and rebounder (1,209) and holds a handful of other records including free throws made and attempted.

She can run better than any other center in women’s basketball despite averaging nearly 35 minutes a game and is an underrated defender.

Next year will definitely be strange without No. 32 on the floor.

The `Other Two’

Having Lindsey Wilson and Tracy Gahan took some of the pressure off Welle, otherwise she may have been quadruple-teamed every game.

Wilson turned into a ferocious scorer (19.1 ppg second in Big 12) and ran Iowa State’s fast-paced offense to perfection.

Gahan became perhaps the all-around best player on the team, packaging her ability to score (14.9 ppg), rebound (7.6 rpg), dish the ball (4.1 apg) and play defense (team-high 1.9 steals per game).

Gahan did all the intangibles – hustling after loose balls, diving to the floor – and was the player every good team needs to win big games.

Newcomer of the year

Despite serving a suspension during the first part of the season, Melanie Bremer showed the potential that made her a junior college All-American at Northeast Community College in Norfolk, Neb.

She’s strong and will need to increase her rebounds from 3.8 per game. She showed she could score (6.1 ppg) and hit several clutch three-pointers to keep the Cyclones close in a home loss to Kansas State.

It’s that ability to step outside and hit the three that will make her an important factor for the Cyclones next year in head coach Bill Fennelly’s run-and-gun offense.

Freshmen Tracy Paustian and Mary Fox can also expect to see more action, too.

Both showed they aren’t afraid to take – and hit – big shots. Paustian nailed two threes to spark Iowa State in a rout of Oklahoma, and Fox nailed a first-half buzzer-beater to send the Cyclones into the locker room with the momentum and a big lead (which they eventually lost) against Baylor on Feb. 27.

Best game

Had to be the upset win over then No. 3 Oklahoma. The Sooners went on to win the Big 12 Conference regular season and the tournament championship, but they can’t seem to get past the Cyclones.

Jan. 15 was no different.

Iowa State rolled to an 82-66 victory in Hilton led by Welle and her 28 points on 10-of-11 shooting.

That was one of Oklahoma’s three losses during the regular season and it was the Cyclones eighth win in a row against the Sooners, who were also the Big 12 champs in 2001.

Sure Oklahoma is in the Final Four, but at least the Cyclones can still feel some pride knowing that the Sooners can’t beat Iowa State.

Worst game

It’s more like worst state.

The Cyclones were 0-5 in the Big 12 against teams from Texas. And while highly-ranked teams like Baylor, Texas and Texas Tech are on that list, so too is Texas A&M.

And the Aggies whooped up on Iowa State to the tune of 88-71.

The Cyclones turned the ball over a ghastly 32 times and shot 22.2 percent from beyond the three-point arc. The loss dropped Iowa State to 1-3 in the conference at the time and was widely viewed as the game that cost Iowa State a shot at a first-round bye in the Big 12 Tournament.

Best individual game

Wilson’s game at Drake, 28 points and eight assists, had the Cyclones on cruise control in a 90-60 win over an eventual Sweet Sixteen team.

Wilson scored 21 of her then career-high (she scored 29 two games later versus Iowa) in the first half as the Cyclones put the Bulldogs away early.

Welle’s 36 point, 13 rebound game against Baylor might qualify, but Iowa State failed to score in the final three minutes and wound up losing, 95-91.

On guards

Next year the Cyclones will look a lot different than they have in the past without the 6-foot, 4-inch Welle. Brittany Wilkins is the next tallest player active on the roster at 6-3, and she didn’t play a game.

Lisa Kriener is 6-2, but nobody can run like Welle did.

That being said, the Cyclones will have arguably the best guard tandem in the Big 12 with Wilson, a healthy Erica Junod and Anne O’Neil, the leading five-player scorer in Iowa high-school history, who transferred from Illinois.

All can handle the ball, O’Neil caused the starters fits as a point guard on the scout team, and all should be solid scorers ( “June – shoot the ball,” as Fennelly would say.)

If they can find somebody to play down low, the Cyclones definitely have someone to get the ball in the post.

The outlook

The crystal ball says Oklahoma will likely be knocked off its perch next year in the Big 12 and Kansas State or Texas, both loaded with young talent, are the likely predecessors to the crown.

Iowa State, depending on its play down low, will fit somewhere in the conference’s upper echelon.

Wilson will be a contender for conference player of the year and will likely lead the Big 12 in scoring and the Cyclones to their seventh straight NCAA Tournament.

If only they can find a way to get Welle and Gahan another year of eligibility, I’m sure they wouldn’t mind another shot at the Final Four.

Jeremy Gustafson is a senior in journalism and mass communication from Ogden. He is sports editor of the Daily and covered ISU women’s basketball.