Iowa State rallies to defeat Illinois
Posted: Monday March 20, 2000 12:46 AM
AMES, Iowa (AP) -- Desiree Francis found her shooting touch just when Iowa State needed it the most.
Francis hit three 3-pointers in a 90-second span to get Iowa State back into the game and the Cyclones finished strong after an agonizing start to beat Illinois 79-68 Sunday night in the Midwest Regional.
Third-seeded Iowa State (27-5) fell behind by eight points early and was down 11 in the second half before Francis starting connecting.
"I just started shooting it every time I touched it," said Francis, who finished with four 3-pointers and 18 points. "Sometimes you make one and you think you can make all the others. I just got my confidence and started shooting it more."
Her teammates started hitting as well and the Cyclones pulled away from the Illini (23-11) in the final 4 1/2 minutes to earn a berth in the regional semifinals against second-seeded Penn State (28-4) Saturday night in Kansas City. Penn State advanced with a 75-69 victory over Auburn.
"We needed somebody to make a play," Iowa State coach Bill Fennelly said. "When Des hit the 3, I think everybody could breathe, the fans got in the game and then everybody decided to play."
Angie Welle led Iowa State with 19 points. Kylie Martin's 18 led Illinois, which shot only 36 percent (9-for-25) in the second half.
Illinois, which frustrated Iowa State early with its aggressive man-to-man defense, led for the last time at 61-60 on Martin's follow shot with 7:56 left. Stacy Frese, held in check most of the night, then hit a 3-pointer as the shot clock buzzer sounded for a 63-61 Iowa State lead, triggering a 14-3 run that put the Cyclones in control.
Francis followed Frese's basket with a layup to make it 65-61 before Tauja Catchings sank a free throw and scored on a putback to draw the Illini to within a point.
But Iowa State answered with nine straight points, Lindsey Wilson capping the burst with a 3-pointer, to go up 74-64 - too much for Illinois to overcome.
"The last 10 minutes we played the way we needed to play," Fennelly said. "They're a very good team and we had to play as good as we could play the last 10 minutes to have a chance to win."
Wilson scored 13 points, Frese had 12 and Megan Taylor 11 to go with 10 rebounds and four steals. Allison Curtin scored 14 for Illinois. Catchings and Susan Blauser each had 13.
Iowa State got a lift from a boisterous crowd of 13,478 that included All-American Marcus Fizer, who has led Iowa State to the round of 16 in the men's tournament.
Leading by four at halftime, Illinois used three-point plays by Curtin and Martin to go up 47-36 with 16:03 left. Francis then found the range and keyed a 16-4 run that put Iowa State ahead 52-51.
"There's no question that when you're chasing a lead and you can hit that 3, that's a definite plus in your pocket," Illinois coach Theresa Grentz said.
The lead changed hands twice after that before Frese's buzzer-beating 3.
Iowa State, which averages 80.5 points a game, missed its first seven shots in falling behind 6-0. The Cyclones didn't score until Taylor hit a follow shot at the 14:50 mark.
With the outside shooters neutralized -- Iowa State was 2-for-13 on 3-point shots in the first half -- the Cyclones finally started clicking by getting the ball inside to Welle. They led briefly before Illinois went up 35-31 at halftime.
"The defense was great," Catchings said. "We were in their
faces. We just tried to keep the momentum going as much as we