Cyclones reflect on NCAA tournament loss, season


Kelby Wingert/Iowa State Daily

Junior Nicole “Kidd” Blaskowsky cries during the video honoring the team’s three seniors after the Cyclones defeated No. 3 Baylor on Feb. 28.

Chris Wolff

A roller coaster of a season came to a close for the Cyclones when the Dayton Flyers flew past Iowa State 78-66 in the first round of the NCAA tournament in Lexington, Ky.

Bill Fennelly knew Dayton would be a tall task after watching film on the opponent, but when he saw the Flyers in person, he knew it could spell trouble for his vertically challenged team.

“I saw them go out to warm up and I told my son, ‘This might not be good,’’’ Fennelly said.

The Cyclones simply could not guard the Flyers, who Fennelly called “a matchup nightmare” for Iowa State. They were bigger and were able to physically dominant the Cyclones.

Fennelly and his staff threw every defensive strategy they could come up with at Dayton, but nothing could reign in Dayton’s offensive attack.

At one point, Fennelly turned to his assistant coaches and said, “We’re going to have to score 80 to win.”

“We got beat by a better team today that played better than us,” Fennelly said.

The season-ending loss left Fennelly and his seniors looking back on the season and trying to make sense of it all.

It was an up-and-down season that saw them notch three top-10 victories. The Cyclones swept Texas, who was ranked third and eighth at those times and also beat a third ranked Baylor team.

The highs were high, but the Cyclones also had low points as well. A late season stretch saw the Cyclones drop five of six games, some against lower-quality teams.

“Disappointing moments, [but] I would not classify it as a disappointing season because we’re here today,” Fennelly said.

Fennelly noted that his team did good enough to get to a ninth-straight NCAA tournament and finished tied for third in a conference that he calls the best conference in the country.

He also noted that the team accomplished all that without Jadda Buckley and Claire Ricketts, who were both lost to injury and would have probably started the majority of games for the Cyclones.

While Buckley and Ricketts will be back next season, three valuable members of this Iowa State team will not. Nikki Moody, Brynn Williamson and Fallon Ellis will all be lost to graduation next season.

Moody led the team throughout the year, being a consistent scorer and assister from the point guard position. Both Moody and Williamson were impact players for all four years that they donned the cardinal and gold.

Ellis came on especially strong down the stretch this season and went from a role player to a big time contributor.

“It’s been a great ride with the girls,” Williamson said. “That’s what I’m going to remember most is my time with them.”