Tech Thwarts Another Cyclone Comeback

<b>KANSAS CITY, MO --</b> Iowa State's second act of desperation in as many days was not enough to carry it into the semifinals of the Big 12 Tournament. Anne O'Neil caught a 70-foot pass from Tracy Paustian and missed a jumper as time expired. The shot from the top of the key would have meant another miraculous comeback by the Cyclones in Municipal Auditorium.

Instead, it sent them home victims of a 61-59 loss to Texas Tech. Nearly 24 hours after completing a nine-point comeback against Colorado, ISU trailed 59-54 with 1:37 remaining. And once again O'Neil was the player who sparked the rally. The senior guard finished a 3-point play and added a pair of free throws to tie the game with 35 ticks left on the clock.

But the series of events she'll remember most were the final ones.

"We practice that play almost every day in practice and one of the hardest parts of it is to even catch the ball," said O'Neil. "As soon as I saw the pass, I knew it was coming right to me. I was concentrating on catching it and was happy.

"I got a really great look at it, and it was probably one of the best looks I had all night. As soon as I let go of it, I thought it had a shot and would bounce around a little bit, but it was just a little left. That's one more play that we made yesterday that we didn't make today."

O'Neil and her teammates suffered a totally different set of emotions afterwards. The feeling of euphoria from Tuesday afternoon changed to disappointment one day later.

"I've never seen this team so hurt, individually or collectively," Fennelly said. "We had our go-to player with her hands on the ball. She had a look at it but it didn't go in. Yesterday she made a great decision and kicked it to an open kid. Tonight she made a great decision and shot it. You've got to have courage to make that play. Yesterday it went in and today it didn't. That's the way life is."

And this time it wasn't meant to be. It was the Lady Raiders who made the plays in the end. Alesha Robertson, the conference's top free throw shooter, hit a pair from the charity stripe with three seconds left. ISU's Mary Fox had fouled Robertson on an inbounds play.

O'Neil led the Cyclones with 22 points and nine rebounds in 38 minutes. But her team didn't shoot well from the field again. ISU shot just 28 percent in the closing stanza and watched an early second-half lead of eight points evaporate.

Tech, meanwhile, heated up after a frigid start, knocking down 11-of-24 shots in the second half. The Lady Raiders took advantage of balanced scoring, getting four double-figure scoring from four different players. Robertson and Chelsey Dabbs each scored 13 points to lead their team.

Robertson's jumper with 13:14 remaining put Tech on top 47-45, its first lead since the 7:56 mark of the first half. But the Cyclones answered with mini 6-2 run to go back on top with 10 minutes remaining.

"They're the best defensive team in the league statistically," Fennelly said. "You look at points per game and defensive field goal percentage, they did a great job of really making it hard for us to get some shots. Then we had some really good looks at the basket, too, that we missed."

The tandem of Katie Robinette and Lisa Kriener scored 19 first-half points for the Cyclones. But they were contained down the stretch and mustered just seven more in the final 20 minutes. Kriener still finished with 16 points and seven rebounds, one of her best outings of the season.

"This isn't even a game unless Lisa plays the way she played," Fennelly said. "It was fun to watch. It was amazing the plays she made. I was very proud of her. I think she did the kind of things that allowed us to have a chance to win."

ISU wrapped up the regular season 23-6 after winning 12 of 16 conference games. It should be good enough to land Fennelly's team back in the NCAA Tournament.

"I hope we're in the NCAA Tournament," ISU's head coach said. "It's the committee's job and not my place to say who we are. But what this team has done over a 29-game schedule, we deserve to be in. Wherever they put us, I'll be ecstatic. Everything I do all year has been about trying to get this team in the NCAA Tournament. Hopefully Sunday we'll see Iowa State's name come up."

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