Work in Sports
Iowa State close to reaching its goal
Posted: Saturday March 11, 2000 11:25 AM
KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) -- Iowa State will end the Big 12 women's basketball season right where it wanted. And it's happening with coach Bill Fennelly's team on an incredible roll.
The 10th-ranked Cyclones will play upstart Texas in the finals of the Big 12 tournament Saturday night. Iowa State also reached the championship game last year, losing to Texas Tech 73-59 after leading at halftime.
"It's been our goal all year long to win the conference and come down here and win the tournament championship," Iowa State center Angie Welle said. "Now we've put ourselves in position to do that."
Top-seeded Iowa State (24-5) blew past Oklahoma State 93-58 and Nebraska 85-48 to reach the finals, putting those games away so early that Fennelly was able to give his starters plenty of rest.
Texas (21-11), on the other hand, took the hard route because it did not have a bye in the first round. The sixth-seeded Longhorns beat Texas A&M in that game, then knocked off No. 18 Oklahoma 71-68 and No. 6 Texas Tech 68-50.
No team that had to play on the first day has ever won the men's or women's Big 12 tournament.
"This is what you dream about as a coach, having a team finally come together and find that cohesiveness," Texas coach Jody Conradt said. "And isn't it fun?"
Iowa State and Texas just met in the regular season finale, the Cyclones winning 79-66 in Austin on March 1. Texas led by nine in that game with 6 minutes left before Iowa State closed with a flurry of 3-pointers in a 23-4 run.
Fennelly thinks it's helpful that his team just played the Longhorns.
"It's fresh in our kids' mind and that's good when you have a short preparation time," he said. "We know how we want to play them, we know that how we played them the last time around was successful, so the kids feel positive. In a short turnaround time, it's not bad."
Iowa State has been on a tear since back-to-back losses to Kansas State and Kansas in mid-February. The Cyclones have won six straight by an average margin of 29 points. They've averaged 91.8 points in those games and shot 54.3 percent.
During that stretch, Iowa State made 18 3-pointers against Baylor, 16 against Missouri and a tournament-record 14 against Oklahoma State. The margin in the two tournament games has left Fennelly stunned.
"I've never seen anything like it in all my years of coaching," he said. "We beat Oklahoma State at a time they were playing really, really well and Nebraska had won six in a row and had just beaten Kansas.
"We played very, very well and when we exploded, it all came together. The kids are loose, they're playing hard and they're having a good time. This is a tournament we talked about all year. We'd like to win it if we could."