"I missed so many, I thought I might as well try to make one or something," said the always exuberant O'Neil, who finished with a game-high 20 points. "It was great, because I missed a free throw and then Gia Perkins basically hits the jumper in my face.
"I was kind of out of it. There were eight seconds left, so I wanted to see what I could do. By the time I got to the other end of the floor, I felt I was dribbling too much and thought the time was going to run out. So I just did a quick spin, shot it and saw it go through the hoop. I was jumping up and down. It was a very exciting feeling."
O'Neil's jumper put the Cyclones into uncharted territory by beating a number one team for the first time in school history. ISU had big upsets over teams such as Texas Tech, Oklahoma and Connecticut in the program's history, but this one came against the longest odds.
"It's going to go down as a huge victory for this program because we beat a number one team," said ISU head coach Bill Fennelly. "But I don't like to say it's the best, because we've had a lot of great players here and they won a lot of great games.
"I will say it takes a different light coming off a disappointing year. We had been fighting to get it going this year. The timing of beating a number one team was pretty dramatic. People are going to be looking at that score tomorrow in the paper six or seven times to make sure Iowa State's on the left-hand side."
It was a victory that appeared unlikely because of the situations Fennelly's team found itself in on a number of occasions. The Cyclones fell behind 11-2 and struggled to show much of any life offensively. Then, after rallying to trail by two points at the half they struggled out of the gates in the second half.
"It's great to beat a great team, but there were a lot of chances we could have lost. It was 11-2 and a first-round knockout, but we hung on. We got down 10 in the second half and could have called it a moral victory and went home. That's something this team hasn't shown, but I knew it was in them. It's a moment they'll remember for a long time. I told them, ‘We don't have to be the best team in the country in the polls, but let's try to be the best team in the country tonight because our school deserves that.' That's the way they played."
ISU used some key inside play from reserve Katie Robinette to get back into contention. The Nebraska transfer played her best game since returning to action in December, scoring 18 points on 6-of-9 shooting and grabbing five rebounds in 23 minutes.
Even more remarkable is the fact Robinette did so with a cut over her right eye after taking an elbow from Jolee Ayers-Curry. The junior actually scored 12 of her 18 points after returning from the injury midway through the second half.
"She was probably the X factor that we had to have," Fennelly said of Robinette. "We asked (Erica Junod), Megan Ronhovde and Mary Fox to really guard hard on the perimeter and sacrifice some offense. They did a heck of a job defending.
"Katie had a lot of energy and really felt like she was in the game from the beginning. She took a hit in the face and looked like a fighter that had been beaten and wanted to go one more round. She looked at me and said, ‘Coach, I'm Rocky.' It was nice to see her play so well. Twenty three minutes is not anything like we expected."
The 40 minutes Fennelly got from O'Neil was also unexpected, as she started at point guard for freshman Lyndsey Medders who sat out the game with the flu. The former Illinois transfer helped ISU control the tempo of the game and contributed game-highs in rebounds (7) and assists (6) to go along with just one turnover.
"I think it was appropriate Anne made the game-winning shot," Fennelly said. "She played so hard all night and had just one turnover. We put the ball in her hands all night. She felt really bad for missing that free throw, so it was nice to see that shot go in for her. It was a good player making a good play."
Defensively, the Cyclones set out to take sharpshooter Natalie Ritchie out of the equation, especially after the senior hit on 8-of-10 3-pointers in the Lady Raiders' previous game. Mission accomplished. ISU limited her to just 1-of-2 shooting from the field and six points in 31 minutes. Ritchie did not attempt a 3-point shot.
"We were going to give up 15-foot jump shots and were not going to allow dribble drives to the basket," Fennelly said. "Natalie Ritchie goes 8-for-10 from the 3-point line in their last game. They only made one three and the one they made was by (Brooke) Baughman off the bench."
ISU improved to 8-5 overall and evened its Big 12 mark to 1-1, while handing Texas Tech its first defeat of the season in 15 games.