By Brent Blum, CycloneFanatic.com Contributor
CycloneFanatic.com’s coverage of the 2011 Big 12 Tournament in Kansas City is brought to you by our friends at Wilson Toyota, located at 2212 S. Duff Ave. in Ames.
Kansas City – Iowa State put up a furious rally, but Kelsey Bolte’s game-tying 3-pointer with three seconds remaining bounced high off the rim and off as Kansas State held off the Cyclones 56-53 in a Big 12 quarterfinal Wednesday afternoon. The Cyclones finished the regular season at 22-10 and will await word about their likely NCAA tournament hopes on Monday evening.
Brittany Chambers’ layup with seven and a half minutes remaining gave Kansas State a 49-36 lead. At that point, the Cyclones finally found some offensive rhythm–Freshman Hallie Christofferson scored eight of her team high 18 points in a three minute stretch to cut into the Wildcat lead. Lauren Mansfield followed with a trey to cut the lead to 52-47 with four minutes remaining.
Bolte was stifled throughout the contest, but hit back-to-back jumpers to reduce the Wildcat lead to three at 54-51 with one minute left.
With 15 seconds on the clock and down three, Iowa State’s Jessica Schroll stole a Chambers’ pass in the backcourt to set up the final seconds. Chassidy Cole’s three from the top of the arc rattled out, but Mansfield was fouled on the rebound. The Cyclones then looked for Bolte–who was switched on by the taller Jalana Childs. Her contested shot came up empty.
“I had a pretty good look at it,” Bolte said. “She’s a pretty big girl, so it was hard to shoot around her. But that’s probably the best look I could get.”
“When you’re down 13 with seven to go and you have two looks at the basket to tie the game, you have to feel good about it,” Bill Fennelly said.
The Cyclones could have been buried midway through the second half if it wasn’t for the effort of Christofferson.
“When you see a kid in this environment as a freshman literally bring our team back almost single-handedly, that says a lot about her. She is a very calm person. She doesn’t get too rattled,” Fennelly said.
“I just try to stay calm, and take what the defense gives us, and we have to take open shots,” Christofferson said.
Iowa State was playing catch-up from the get go. Anna Prins scored the first bucket of the game, but that would be the only time the Cyclones led in the contest. The Cyclone offense sputtered throughout most of the game–they shot 45 percent from the floor, but committed 15 turnovers.
“They’re very well-coached. They’re well-prepared. They’re hard to score on. We knew that. It was difficult for us to get some looks at the basket. We had some turnovers at bad times, but that’s Big 12 basketball,” Fennelly said.
They were unable to get Bolte into the flow of the offense as she scored ten points and only two in the first half.
“They played good defense on me. Most of my shots were contested. I missed a lot of shots that I usually make, but they disrupted me a bit,” Bolte said.
K-State led by as many as six in the first half. They established Childs early. She scored 10 first half points with the Cyclones trying to slow her down with several different defenders. She finished with 14 points. A runner at the horn by lightly-used Chantay Caron gave the Wildcats a 30-25 lead at the break.
K-State’s sophomore guard Brittany Chambers led the way for the Wildcats, scoring 20 points, grabbing seven rebounds and setting up Childs for several key baskets. K-State shot 55 percent in the 2nd half and 48 percent for the game. The Wildcats had lost to Iowa State the previous two meetings this season and used that as extra motivation.
“Iowa State played their butts off. We thought we could bring a little bit more, especially since they played last night, we really wanted to go at them. But it was time to beat them, definitely,” Chambers said.
Iowa State is still likely to make their fifth straight NCAA tournament.
“I’ve never been someone to politic in front of the committee,” Fennelly said. “I don’t think that’s my job. I think we’ve done what we can do now, and we’ll wait and hopefully our name will come up.”
They will find out officially on Monday during the women’s selection show. It is televised on ESPN at 6 p.m central.
Kansas State advances to meet Baylor in the Big 12 semi-finals on Friday afternoon.