But a remarkable turn of events helped turn the game around. Medders hit the first of two last-minute 3-pointers to cut the deficit to 61-57 with 50 seconds to play. Katie Robinette added a layup in transition 10 seconds later to cut it to two.
After a free throw by CU's Veronica Johns-Richardson, Anne O'Neil knocked down a pair of shots at the charity stripe with 16 seconds remaining. That set up the final series of events.
Anna Nedovic missed a wide open layup on a fast break. Robinette got the rebound and fired a short pass to Megan Ronhovde. The sophomore guard dribbled it to midcourt and found O'Neil on the right corner. Facing a double team near the 3-point stripe, O'Neil found Lyndsey Medders on the left wing for the winner.
"It was probably the most team-oriented play we had all game," said Medders, who had been enduring one of the worst games of her season. "It was just a credit to everybody on the team. Anne got me the ball right where I needed it. Everybody will focus on me hitting the final shot of the game, but don't give me too much credit just for hitting a 3-pointer."
The Cyclones led for only two minutes and 48 seconds.
Medders' shot nearly left head coach Bill Fennelly speechless. He had mixed emotions about the game, which would end up being Colorado's Ceal Barry's final one as coach.
"I'm still shaking," said Fennelly. "I'm very proud of the way my kids played the game. This is a nerve-racking March. I'm happy we get to play again.
"But I feel very sad about Coach Barry. I didn't want to be involved in her last game, and especially that way. She totally out-coached me today, without question. Her team was better prepared and played harder. I'm glad we get to keep playing, but I feel bad it happened that way for her. She's an amazing person."
Fennelly would get his thoughts together as the post-game press conference continued, just as his team eventually did on the court.
ISU never led the entire second half before Medders' shot. There were only three lead changes the entire game, and its opponent controlled all aspects. CU grabbed a 48-39 lead with 8:27 remaining, and that looked to be it for the Cyclones.
A media timeout turned out to be a blessing in disguise for Fennelly's team. ISU scored 10 of the next 12 points and cut the deficit to one point with 4:11 to play.
"I was telling them the same thing we've been telling them all year," Fennelly said. "You've got 40 minutes to play or go home, and then it was 20, 15, and eight. For the first time in a long time, this team had that glazed look in their eye. They were probably feeling some jitters.
"Everytime we did one or two good things, we did one or two bad things. We couldn't get a flow. You've got to keep fighting and playing. You go to the bitter end. Two-tenths of a second…just finish. You've got to have something special to finish something."
And there was no doubt this Cyclone team was special. After winning 12 conference games and 22 overall, they returned to the friendly confines of Municipal Auditorium. But that was the last thing on their mind in the final few minutes.
And just as ISU pulled close late in the second half, Barry's team dug in one last time. ISU's Mary Fox hit a 3-pointer to cut CU's advantage to 55-54 at the 2:42 mark, but the Buffaloes proceeded to hit six straight free throws to take a decisive lead with 54 seconds to play.
"I think everybody just realized how much time we still had and we had a chance to still win the game," O'Neil said. "There were some selfless plays all the way down the court. We practice game situations all the time and pressing, but we're usually not down seven with 50 seconds left.
"This one was so huge. To be in Kansas City and it's win or go home. We packed for a long week, so it probably would have been a long bus trip tonight if we lost. The way we came back after being down most of the second half and then to be able to finish it with that kind of play was so huge."
Robinette led ISU with 22 points and 10 rebounds over 34 minutes. But she was the team's only consistent offensive threat. O'Neil and Medders combined for just 22 points and made just 7-of-23 shots from the field.
The Cyclones shot just 29 percent in the opening 20 minutes and improved greatly in the second half by hitting 12-of-25 shots. They were much better from the free throw line, making 15-of-17.
CU wrapped up the season at 8-19 after losing 14 of 16 conference games.