Cyclone Fanatic’s coverage of Iowa State women’s basketball is brought to you by our friends at Wilson Toyota of Ames.
AMES – Gritty. Gutty. Essential.
In a game Iowa State had to win, the ball finally bounced the Cyclones’ way. Iowa State persevered Saturday night, beating Kansas 72-69 at Hilton Coliseum.
“We talked at length before the game about finishing things and how special people finish,” Iowa State coach Bill Fennelly said. “They don’t look for excuses. No matter what was going to happen, I said we’re going stand in the middle and we’re just going to swing, and swing, and swing, and swing until something good happens.”
Too many times during Big 12 play, Iowa State’s (17-7, 6-7) fumbled chances to close games. Hallie Christofferson and Nikki Moody wouldn’t let that happen against the Jayhawks. The duo combined for 47 points and more importantly, they stepped up when it mattered most for the Cyclones.
Moody – who didn’t start Saturday – continually made the big play. All Christofferson did was score a game-high 29 points.
“The plan was to get (Christofferson) the ball as much as her arms would allow her to catch it and lift it above her head,” Fennelly said.
Moody fed off Christofferson’s energy, putting on a show after halftime. The junior made consecutive baskets to knot the score at 52-52. Later, Moody hung in the air and banked a shot home for a 64-62 edge.
Moody’s biggest bucket came in the waning moments. Trailing 69-68, Fennelly drew up a play for Moody to go to the hoop. The Euless, Texas native answered with another tough two for a 70-69 edge with 25 seconds left.
“We knew Nikki could beat someone off the bounce,” Christofferson said. “I just cleared out the post and let her go to work.”
“I was just thinking I had to make it,” added Moody, who tallied 18 points.
The Jayhawks wouldn’t get off another shot until a desperation, highly contested 3-pointer by CeCe Harper that didn’t draw rim.
Credit assistant coach Billy Fennelly and his scouting report.
“We kind of felt we knew the play they were going to run,” Fennelly said. “They’d run it in a couple of other games. We practiced it a couple of different times. Billy scouted them and walked (the team) through it in the huddle at the end. We couldn’t have guarded the play any better than we guarded it.”
Coaches don’t like to call any game a “must-win,” but the reality is the Cyclones needed a victory in the worst way. Iowa State entered the game 5-7 in the Big 12 with two games against Baylor and a trip to Oklahoma State still left on the schedule.
Unlike recent disappointing finishes against TCU and Texas, the Cyclones executed down the stretch. There was a different confidence level against the Jayhawks.
Instead of waiting for someone to make a play, Moody attacked. Instead of wilting at the free throw line, Christofferson sprinted to the stripe and calmly sank two. Instead of making defensive mistakes, the Cyclones followed the scouting report and suffocated Kansas’ attempt.
“Kids make plays,” Fennelly said. “When kids make plays, all the diagramming stuff looks good. They make the coaches look good.”
The triumph puts the Cyclones back on pace to make the NCAA Tournament for the eight-straight season. There’s still plenty of work left to do, but Saturday was a big step toward the dance.
Kansas coach Bonnie Henrickson on the 28-9 free throw disparity in Iowa State’s favor
“One year it was 33-3, so I guess we made some progress.”
Fennelly on Iowa State’s defense in the second half. The Cyclones held the Jayhawks to 29 points.
“At halftime, my staff wisely told me, ‘Coach, we need to do something else.’ I thought the zone in the second half really helped us. It kept people in front of us.”
– Official attendance on Saturday night was 11,988.
– Hallie Christofferson added eight rebounds to go with her 29 points.
– Nikki Moody filled the stat sheet with 18 points, five rebounds and six assists.
– Iowa State made just 3-of-12 3-point attempts on Saturday.
– Seanna Johnson notched 14 points and eight rebounds.
– Kansas was led by Chelsea Gardner’s 19 points. Asia Boyd had 16 points.