Cyclones make Sweet 16 for the first time since 2010


Jacob Rice/Iowa State Daily

Emily Ryan smiles as she heads to the bench during Iowa State’s NCAA Tournament win over Georgia on March 20.

Andrew Harrington

AMES — Sunday night was another milestone moment for an Iowa State women’s basketball team that has etched its name in the school’s history books.

With a dominant 67-44 win over No. 6 seed Georgia, the Cyclones were all smiles after the game.

For the first time since 2010 Iowa State is back in the Sweet 16.

Head Coach Bill Fennelly says that the number of years does not matter to him. What he values is this individual group and he is proud of the way this group has played this season.

“Sometimes in life you earn things and you get it,” Fennelly said. “Well this group earned it and they got it and pretty damn sweet along the way.”

“I don’t know that I’ve ever wanted something professionally more in my life than to see these guys have that opportunity.”

After a shaky start to the first round game against UT Arlington, Iowa State made sure to make things difficult for Georgia early. The Cyclones jumped out to an early 11-0 lead and stretched it to 23-7 at the end of the first.

The defensive schemes were not something that the Cyclones have spent a lot of time on; In fact, Fennelly even mentioned that his team executed several different defenses that they have not practiced at all.

“We looked like we were giving a zone clinic in the first four minutes of the game, and that’s just not the way we play,” Fennelly said.

Once the lead was built for the Cyclones, the players just had to find a comfort zone and stay in it, and that is just what happened.

Coming into the season, Fennelly did not know what to expect from this year’s squad. It took a trip to the Gulf Coast Showcase in Florida for him to figure it out.

It wasn’t the fact that the Cyclones went 3-0 on the weekend and were undefeated at the time. The reason that Fennelly believed this team could make a run was how much they connected off the floor.

“I didn’t know tonight would happen,” Fennelly said. “I knew we would be a good team because we had really good kids that connected in a way that good teams connect.”

Emily Ryan controlled the game on the offensive end, scoring 15 points and recording nine assists, giving her the team’s single season record with 239.

“Last year we were one play away from getting to where we are now,” Ryan said. “We worked really hard having that in the back of our minds.”

Lexi Donarski had a strong performance on both sides of the ball as well, scoring 20 points and causing problems for the Bulldog backcourt all night.

For a team that is known for offensive prowess and elite three-point shooting, the Cyclones were able to showcase their defensive effort on Sunday. Iowa State allowed just 44 points, the lowest it had given up since Dec. 19.

“It really all started with defense,” Donarski said. “That just pushed us forward on offense.”

Iowa State will now travel to Greensboro, N.C., to match up with No. 10 seed Creighton on Friday. The time of the game is still to be determined.