116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
GREENSBORO, N.C. — Bill Fennelly already is celebrating at the Sweet 16.
While that might sound premature, just imagine the reaction from the Iowa State women’s basketball coach if the Cyclones take down Creighton in Friday night’s Greensboro Region semifinal.
“This is like the coolest thing ever,” Fennelly said Thursday. “I'm at the point in my career where you’re not going to do this many more times, if ever, and I just told them they have to enjoy this — everything about it.”
The Cyclones (28-6) are a victory away from their first spot in the Elite Eight since 2009. They also could extend their school record for wins.
“It has been really exciting, especially with the team,” senior Ashley Joens said. “I think we have a really close group, and just kind of getting to experience it with them has been a lot of fun. We just want to keep getting better and trying to get further into the tournament. When it's time to focus, it's business time, and afterwards we can kind of relax, have some fun, and get ready to go.”
Fennelly already has taken great joy. He said he’ll embrace every part of this experience with the third-seeded Cyclones. He seems to be documenting the details of this latest trip.
“You get a police escort. How cool is that?” he said. “Everything. The hotel, and you walk into this facility, it’s just everything about it is great. … Celebrate the work that goes into it. Because if you don't do that, then why are we doing this?
“Sometimes you get so crazy about every little detail. You’ve got to enjoy it, and Friday night we’ll let it rip and see what happens.”
Joens seemed more prone to discuss the matchup with Creighton, but she said she recognizes the significance of the Cyclones playing this deep into the tournament.
“Just kind of understanding where it all started as a little kid and kind of seeing the dream kind of continue to grow,” she said. “Just where we're at now. It's been exciting to be here with this team.”
The winner takes on the North Carolina-South Carolina survivor from the first semifinal game.
By the nightcap, be on the lookout for some long-range launches.
Creighton (22-9) ranks seventh nationally in 3-point shooting by connecting on 37 percent of those shots. Meanwhile, the Cyclones have drained a school- and Big 12-record 349 baskets from 3-point range.
“Everyone is going to talk about Creighton is going to make all these 3s,” Fennelly said. “I'm more worried about how many layups they’re going to make, how many foul shots they’re going to make. They’re going to make some 3s. Hopefully, we make some too.”
The clash with Creighton could be similar to matchups with Oklahoma because of the Bluejays’ tendency to go with an all-guard lineup. Yet Creighton Coach Jim Flanery has a list of concerns, rattling off the names of key Iowa State players.
“Bill and his staff do a great job of playing to their strengths and making you play away from your strengths,” Flanery said. “That's what they’ll do.”
The Bluejays, fresh off Sunday’s 64-62 upset at second-seeded Iowa, are in the Sweet 16 for the first time in program history.
Fennelly, who’s in his 27th season with the Cyclones, appreciates what this team has accomplished.
“I think I’ve thanked them 50 times for getting me here,” he said.
Now the goal will be staying through the weekend.