ISU Equals Best Start in School History

<b>AMES, IA --</b> In addition to senior leadership, balance has played a key role in Iowa State's hot start this season. Both were vital in the Cyclones' 74-54 victory over Nebraska Saturday, their 15th in 16 games to open the 2004-05 campaign.

Three seniors scored in double figures for ISU, including Anne O'Neil who scored a team-high 15 points. Fellow classmates Mary Fox and Katie Robinette added 14 points for the Cyclones, who have now won their first five games of the Big 12 slate. O'Neil added six rebounds and five assists.

Saturday's victory by the Cyclones tied them with the 2000-01 team for the best start in school history.

"I'm very proud of my seniors," said Cyclone head coach Bill Fennelly. "This team has been compared to a lot of other teams, and they will be considered equal to one of the best teams we've ever had here.

"We're excited to be where we are, and everyone knows what lies ahead. But 15-1 is pretty dang good. I hope it's something that they will enjoy for a short amount of time, even though we've got to go to K-State on Tuesday. "

For an ISU senior class that has experienced plenty of downs to go with the recent flurry of victories, the 20-point win was a huge lift.

But it's also the start of a difficult stretch in the Big 12. Fennelly's team travels to Manhattan to face K-State on Tuesday.

"I think it's great, being 15-1 and being tied in school history," said senior Lisa Kriener. "That's awesome, but on the same side there are a lot more things this team can do. I don't think we've seen it yet. We have some more games and are going to do what we can to keep improving and be the best we can be. We have a game on Tuesday and will be focused on that now."

ISU's record-tying victory didn't come without a fight, as it overcame 17 turnovers and 13 offensive rebounds by Nebraska.

A 15-2 run early in the second half proved to be the difference. Five different Cyclone players scored during the rally, which Mary Fox capped with a jumper at the 8:24 mark. Leading 58-41 at that point, ISU cruised to a victory.

"That was the game," Fennelly said of the run. "We probably guarded them the hardest (of the game). Our attention to detail defensively that four minutes was the best it was throughout the game. We defensive rebounded and got in the open court.

"Because Nebraska pressures the outlet so much, we kept saying throw it over the top of them. We got some open threes and got transition baskets. We're much better scoring in the open court than our half-court offense."

The Cyclone defense had one focus in mind throughout the game – containing Nebraska's Kiera Hardy. The sophomore entered the game averaging a league-best 25.2 points in conference games. While she still managed to score 17 points on 7-of-16 shooting, the rest of her team hit on only 34 percent of their shots.

"We wanted to make it hard on Hardy to shoot, and rebound the ball, which we did most of the game," Fennelly said. "We wanted to keep them off the free-throw line, which we did. And then we finally made a couple shots and opened the game up in the middle of the second half."

While ISU pulled away late in the second half, official Rick Morris ejected Nebraska head coach Connie Yori. The Husker jumped high in the air and charged out to half-court to confront the referee.

After she was issued her second technical, she marched to the locker room in front of the Cyclone bench where Fennelly had a few comments.

"If I tried that, I'd hurt myself," Fennelly said of Yori's leap. "We've all been there; the frustration and her kids played really hard. You do everything you can to protect your team and do what you think is right. She handles everything with such dignity, and she runs the program with dignity."

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