Cyclone seniors lead the way

Jeremy Gustafson

KANSAS CITY, Mo.- ISU junior Angie Welle was the MVP of the Big 12 Tournament, junior Tracy Gahan led the Cyclones past Baylor in Iowa State’s first game and sophomore point guard Lindsey Wilson averaged 14 points and 4.8 assists in the tournament.

However, it was the seniors who made the huge plays as the Cyclones secured their second straight tourney title with a 68-65 victory over No. 1 seed Oklahoma.

Megan Taylor scored 28 points, a new title game record, Erica Haugen scored 11 and played 38 minutes of solid defense on Oklahoma’s explosive guards and Gintar‚ Cipinyte, despite not scoring, played solid in the lane when Welle was hampered with foul trouble.

“We literally hopped on her back, I think, this whole game,” Welle said of Taylor’s effort in the championship game.

ISU head coach Bill Fennelly agreed that it was Taylor’s night as he was on the brink of tears when he talked of how much confidence he had in his senior guard despite her not shooting well in the first two games.

“Her stats aren’t always the best,” Fennelly said. “But when it comes to winning time, there ain’t anybody in the country I’d rather have shoot the ball than her.”

Adding to the nostalgia of the night, on her third three-pointer of the game, Taylor set the all-time record for career points at Iowa State. She needed only nine in the game to break the mark.

“As far as Megan goes, we don’t have enough time for me to talk about Megan Taylor,” Fennelly said. “It couldn’t have ended in a better way for her as far as to break the school record, have a great game, win a Big 12 Championship. It should happen to her and it did. Those things don’t normally happen, but it did to Megan and I’m glad it did.”

Taylor, who was recruited by Fennelly four years ago along with Haugen, hold a special place in their coach’s heart. He believes that they are two of the people most responsible for the turnaround of the basketball program at Iowa State.

Since the two arrived in Ames for the 1997-98 season, the Cyclones have won 102 games, one Big 12 regular season title, two tournament titles and have been to the NCAA tournament all four years, going as far as the elite eight.

“I think the impact that those two people have made, on the basketball program at Iowa State is unparalleled anywhere in the country,” Fennelly said. “To go from where we were four years ago to where we are now and to do it with the class and dignity that they’ve done it with is truly amazing. There’s impact players that change programs around, no one has done it like those two have.”

Haugen may seem like she doesn’t get the attention that her teammates do, but she doesn’t care; winning is her main goal.

With Wilson, Gahan, Welle and Taylor all being on the all-Big 12 team, it may seem like she is going unappreciated, but she says that her role is to do the small stuff that makes a team successful.

“[She is] unreal,” Welle said of Haugen’s contributions in Iowa State’s win over Texas Tech in the semifinals. “She does all the dirty work on the team that no one else wants to do like making steals and assists. She hits free throws and she just play[s] great the entire game.”

Haugen agrees that Welle sums up the guards contributions best. “Angie summed it up best in the paper yesterday when she said I did all the little stuff,” Haugen said. “I just do the dirty work, it doesn’t matter to me if I get all the press or anything like that; I just want to win.”

Cipinyte had been somewhat criticized for her play prior to the championship game. The junior college transfer had not been producing like many around the Cyclone team had hoped.

But in her final Big 12 game, `G’ stepped it up and, despite not scoring, filled a huge void when Welle went to the bench with foul trouble.

“I thought `G’ was outstanding,” ISU head coach Bill Fennelly said. “When we got Angie in foul trouble, we took her out and sat her the last six minutes [of the first half]. We left `G’ in there for quite a few minutes and she did what we asked her to do. I still would like to see her a little more aggressive offensively.”