ISU women finally win a close one

A return to Hilton Coliseum and an enthusiastic Cyclone crowd was just the medicine that the Iowa State women's basketball team needed Saturday to post a hard fought 72-70 victory over the Kansas Jayhawks.Seniors Lindsey Wilson and Mary Cofield (in photo) led the way for ISU.

Just last Wednesday, the Cyclones came out on the short end of a 64-63 decision at the University of Colorado. Some 2,600 Buffalo faithful were in attendance to watch the top 25 home team in their Big 12 Conference opener. But on Saturday in Ames, 8,813 turned out to see their beloved Cyclone women's team, even though their record stood at 5-7 going into the contest.

"The crowd was very important," ISU coach Bill Fennelly said after the game. "It impacted this game as much as any game since I've been at Iowa State, considering the magnitude of the game and that it was a tie game with a minute and a half to go."

The game, which had seen numerous lead changes throughout the afternoon, came down to a pair of Lindsey Wilson free throws with just two seconds left on the clock. Wilson sunk them both, and the Cyclones forced a Kansas turnover during the final ticks to preserve the victory.

Prior to the game, Fennelly said that the Cyclones had to stay on the boards with the taller, more athletic Jayhawks. They didn't.

KU out rebounded Iowa State 43-24, the largest margin in Fennelly's memory.

"We won because we made just enough three's," Fennelly said. "We won because we did not turn the ball over (only 13 for the game). We didn't give them baskets in the open court."

From Cyclone turnovers, the Jayhawks only converted seven points, while the Cyclones scored 20 off KU miscues.

Early on the contest, it appeared that Iowa State had not scouted Kansas very well. KU guard Stacy Becker nailed four of six three point attempts, after having converted on only four of 16 attempts in all previous games this season.

"We were not surprised," Fennelly said, "Although it looked like it."

Iowa State had scouted and spent some time recruiting Becker while she was in high school, so they weren't totally surprised at her output.

For the Cyclones, however, it was a case of guard Lindsey Wilson making great progress and forward Mary Cofield redeeming herself after a sub-par outing in Boulder earlier in the week.

"Lindsey did a great job of distributing the ball," Fennelly said. "I told her 'your (shot) attempts need to go down and you need to get your teammates involved.' Some of her shot selection hasn't been very good."

On Saturday, Wilson responded, posting a line of 16 points, eight assists and three steals to go along with just three turnovers.

It was senior Mary Cofield, however, who was the big gun for the Cyclones. Cofield hit six of nine attempts from the field, including four of seven from beyond the arc at critical times.

"Mary was outstanding," Fennelly said. "She didn't play well against Colorado so she needed this bad. She can walk out of here knowing that as a senior, she came back strong and impacted our winning.

Fennelly had a heart to heart conversation with Cofield in the Denver airport on Thursday after her problems in the game against Colorado.

"She needed something good to happen," Fennelly said. "She's been down on herself. Being a senior, she feels that every game she doesn't play to her capabilities, it's like she gave one away. But I was really, really impressed with her approach tonight. She deserves it, she's really done a lot for this team.

"If you had 12 Mary Cofields, you'd have the best job in the United States."

Iowa State built a nine point lead in the first half, but struggled as they changed defenses to cope with Becker's three point barrage. On the other end of the court, the Jayhawks changed up their defenses and put the Cyclones out of sync.

"Between being tentative on offense and getting our butts kicked on the backboards, it's tough," Fennelly said. " I thought we could score in transition, but you can't do that when you're (rebounding) out of the net."

Cyclone center Lisa Kriener had another strong outing with thirteen points and six rebounds. But Fennelly believes that Iowa State still needs to do a better job of getting the ball into the post.

"Lisa had some big baskets," Fennelly said. "I think we can do it (score in the post), we've just got to get her in the right frame of mind."

Kansas was led by Aquanita Burras' 14 points. 6-4 center Tamara Ransburg pulled down nine rebounds as did Nichelle Roberts.

Saturday's win was big for the Cyclones in many ways - a conference win, a home win, and a close win. Kansas is not one of the favorites in the conference, but their physical, athletic style presented a huge challenge for the Cyclones, whose collective psyches had been severely tested by a number of close contests with negative outcomes.

Fennelly was thrilled with the outcome.

"Ninety percent of the season, we've played hard. We just haven't had the players, the talent, the breaks, or whatever it is to win," he said. "But we did today."

"I think they'll start school Monday with a smile on their face. They've done everything we've asked them to do . When you do that all the time and you don't win, you get a little frustrated. It's nice to see them rewarded."

Next up for the Iowa State Cyclone women's basketball team is a Wednesday date with the high flying Kansas State Wildcats in Manhattan.

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