By Brent Blum, CycloneFanatic.com ColumnistFollow Brent on Twitter @BrentBlum
CycloneFanatic.com’s coverage of the 2012 Big 12 Women’s Basketball Tournament in Kansas City is proudly brought to you by our good friends at Wilson Toyota of Ames located at 2212 South Duff Ave. in Ames.
KANSAS CITY — Bill Fennelly doesn’t like to lose. He especially doesn’t like to lose in Kansas City. And he really doesn’t like to lose when there were several opportunities to seize control throughout the game. Now the Cyclones will have to fester for a week and a half and regroup for the NCAA tournament.
The quarterfinal matchup with K-State was symptomatic of the entire season for Iowa State. In stretches, they showed how capable and dangerous of team they can be. During the spurt to open the game, the Cyclones were sharp. Nikki Moody was getting to the basket and Lauren Mansfield was knocking down shots. But as soon as it appeared that the Cyclones were going to put the Wildcats away, the offense sputtered for a stretch and left the door open. From there, Kansas State’s Jalana Childs got it going and kept it going.
“They just kept fighting back,” Moody said.
At the 15:50 mark of the first half, Iowa State led 14-5. The Cyclones were 6-of-7 from the floor. It was at that point where the game turned. The Cyclones were held scoreless for the next six minutes. Before Iowa State could get back in the scoring column, Jalana Childs found a rhythm in the post and Chelsea Poppens picked up her second foul. The match-up of All Big 12 post players turned decisively in the Wildcats favor.
“I really wanted to bang it in there. My teammates fed me the ball and I just kept it rolling,” Childs said.
Even with the dominant performance by Childs, the Cyclones had their chances. Moody capped off an 8-0 Cyclone charge midway through the second half with a stellar three point play and Iowa State seized a 54-50 lead. It was one of many “wow” plays from Moody who cemented herself as one of the most exciting players in the Big 12.
Once again, it appeared the Cyclones would put things away. But an inopportune three minute drought put Iowa State in a hole they couldn’t dig out of.
But all is not lost for Iowa State. In a season full of so many ups and downs, there is still potential to climb back up the mountain.
The Iowa State guards were terrific. For most of the season, it was the guard play that has led to the Cyclones inconsistent nature. Not today. Nikki Moody was the best guard on the court and got to the rim time and time again to the tune of 21 points. She has the potential to be a game changer each time she steps on the floor. The Iowa State offense feeds off of her energy. If she can play at the level she has over the last three games, the Cyclones will be a very tough out in the NCAA tournament.
Lauren Mansfield showed all kinds of courage en route to 21 points of her own and has become a quiet leader who is not afraid to take the big shot. Against K-State the shot didn’t drop at the end, but if the Cyclones are in a tight one down the stretch come NCAA tournament time, Mansfield won’t be afraid to fire again.
Rarely will Chelsea Poppens struggle as much as she did against K-State. If the Cyclones can piece together the vastly improving guard play with the almost always reliable presence from Poppens, they can be a feisty squad.
Paul Rhoads has a go to saying, “We need to put the pieces of the puzzle together…together.”
The Cyclones have bounced back from adversity all season long.
They have the pieces; they just need to get it assembled.