The win at Hilton Coliseum, which could rate as one of the most memorable during Bill Fennelly's successful tenure as head coach, could not have come at a better time for a Cyclone team that improved to 8-9 overall and won their third Big 12 game in six tries.
But this has also been a very trying season for Fennelly, as he has been in danger of posting his first losing record as head coach of the program. But Wednesday night seemed very similar to the old days when Angie Welle dominated in the paint and Stacy Frese and Megan Taylor rained in 3-pointers with ease.
"I see these kids every day of the season, no matter if we're a good team or a bad team," said Fennelly. "But if you don't have good people in place, you don't win games like this."
ISU's victory over the Wildcats, who had won 18 of their first 19 games this season and surged to a five-game win streak to open Big 12 play, followed a similar script as past ones.
Fennelly's squad hit on 7-of-17 shots from beyond the 3-point arc and made 26-of-49 from the field overall. Solid backcourt play from Lindsey Wilson and Anne O'Neil helped spark the victory. Wilson scored 15 of her game-high 27 points during the first half and provided much of the Cyclones' offense throughout the early-going. On the other hand,
O'Neil caught fire late and finished with 18 points, including 7-of-11 shooting from the free-throw line. The play out of third- and fourth-options such as Lisa Kriener and Mary Cofield ultimately proved to be the difference, though.
"Twenty-seven points is a pretty good effort out of Lindsey Wilson, but I was seeing Mary Cofield looking for a shot," Fennelly said, in reference to the senior who nailed four of her five shots from 3-point land to finish with 12 points.
"Lisa Kriener was active, had live feet in the post and we got her the ball. We didn't rely just on Lindsey Wilson to make shots. The other kids were willing to step up and take the shots. We knocked a few down and that seemed to be the difference."
The effort was a far cry from what ISU fans saw 10 days ago in an 86-55 loss to unheralded Missouri at Hilton Coliseum. But the ship appears to be righted with a win on the road last weekend and perhaps the biggest upset in the program's history Wednesday night.
"This was pretty big, given the fact that we're not ranked and they're third in the country," said Wilson. "We've been up and down all year. They upset our winning streak last year. So there are all kinds of things that make this a big mystery. It feels good to play well at home and hold on against a very good team.
"(The Missouri loss) was a tough thing to deal with. You have to be real hard on yourself after a loss like that and learn from it. But you also have to keep your confidence and not let it turn into two losses. We did that with a good game against Nebraska on the road, then wanted to get back the Hilton Magic tonight. We have always defended our home court well and wanted to do that tonight."
Hilton Magic was in full effect from the very start against K-State, as the Cyclones wasted no time breaking out of the gates. O'Neil's jumper shortly after the midway point of the first half gave them a 20-11 lead.
That lead would grow to as many as 12 points later in the opening session, and it was again O'Neil doing the damage. Her bucket put ISU in front 32-20 with 3:57 remaining in the half.
The Cyclones would own a 38-30 edge going into the locker room, but with as bad as the Wildcats fared in the half, Fennelly had good cause for concern.
But after Kendra Wecker's jumper cut the deficit to six points two minutes into the second half, O'Neil answered with a barrage of her own. She hit a medium-range jumper to answer Wecker's shot, before knocking down one of her only 3-pointer of the game with 15:37 to play to make it 43-32 ISU.
K-State would scratch and claw closer down the stretch, but never was able to cut the Cyclone lead to under five points until the waning moments.
Fennelly's game plan involved taking the Wildcats' perimeter game out of the equation and forcing them to find a weapon other than Nicole Ohlde. The strategy worked to perfection, as Ohlde scored 21 points and grabbed eight rebounds over 40 minutes. However, other than Megan Mahoney's 22 points, she didn't have much help.
The absence of sharp-shooting Laurie Koehn, limited to only five minutes by a sprained right ankle, enabled Fennelly to better isolate the Wildcats' weapons.
Wecker, who had entered the game as K-State's leading scorer, slumped to just 10 points on 5-of-12 shooting. Early foul trouble and five turnovers in all forced her to the bench for 12 minutes.
"We decided tonight that we were going to let Nicole Ohlde shoot until her arm fell off," Fennelly said. "We tried to defend the perimeter a little better than last time. We were going to try to not give up threes and double team Ohlde on occasion. Lisa Kriener did a phenomenal of making it hard for her to catch it. She's 7-for-15 from the field and had five turnovers. She's a great player, but Lisa put her in some situations that allowed us to defend her better." Intensity played as big of a role in the Wildcats' demise than anything, said Ohlde.
"Iowa State was really aggressive and we seemed to be a little hesitant," she said. "They came out really wanting this win and there were some things we could have done a lot better. They had a lot to do with us not shooting as well as we did."
The Cyclones put their mini win streak on the line this Saturday night in a trip to Baylor.
Kansas State's Megan Mahoney, left, and Iowa State's Lisa Kreiner battle for the ball during the secondhalf. (AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall)
Iowa State's Lindsey Wilson, right, gets a hug from teammate Megan McCracken after their 74-69 win over No. 3 Kansas State. Wilson led Iowa State with 27 points. (AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall)
Iowa State's Anne O'Neil, left, falls to the floor after grabbing a rebound in front of Kansas State's Megan Mahoney (34) during the first half,. (AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall)
Iowa State's Lindsey Wilson, right, fights for a loose ball with Kansas State's Brie Madden, left, during the first half. (AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall)