116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Bill Fennelly paused briefly as his voice cracked.
An intense 45 minutes of basketball turned into an emotional expression of gratitude from Iowa State’s head coach as he spoke after Saturday’s gritty, physical, and draining 82-73 Big 12 tournament semifinal loss to No. 7 Texas in overtime at Municipal Auditorium.
“This team has been beyond a joy for me,” Fennelly said after the 10th-ranked Cyclones fell to the Longhorns in overtime the second straight season. “And at this point in my career, you don’t get that very often. The good news is we’re all heartbroken we don’t get to play (Sunday), but we’re gonna play again.”
ISU (26-6) will host first- and second-round NCAA Tournament games late next week — and if Saturday’s effort is any indication of what’s to come, the Cyclones could be playing quite a while.
“That’s what you have to do, is fight,” said ISU senior star Ashley Joens, who scored a game-high 33 points while grabbing 13 rebounds. “You’ve got to stick your nose in there and stay in there. So if they hit a big shot, you’ve got to come down and make a play and get some defensive stops. I think we did a really good job of that (Saturday). We just need to learn how to finish.”
Joens made an array of clutch shots at the rim and beyond the arc. The former Iowa City High standout’s step-back 3-pointer with 2:41 left pulled the Cyclones within two, at 71-69, with 2:41 left, but the Longhorns (25-6) closed with an 11-4 run to secure the win.
“In an overtime it swings quickly,” Fennelly said. “And to their credit, they made a couple really tough ones and we didn’t make the shot that you needed to make. But that’s an old-time game. It usually takes one or two shots that swings it.”
ISU certainly kept swinging against a Texas team that swept the regular-season series with convincing victories.
Case in point: The end of regulation.
The Longhorns led 63-61 with 37 seconds left in the fourth quarter, but Cyclones post player Beatriz Jordao blocked their potential game-sealing shot. Jordao then tied it on the other end off an assist from Emily Ryan to help force overtime.
“We’re such an unselfish team,” said ISU guard Lexi Donarski, who notched 11 points and two steals. “We do share the ball and we are happy for each other when a different person steps up and makes a big shot like (that).”
Texas point guard Rori Harmon scored a career-high 30 points, but not without stout resistance. Ryan — who dished out nine assists — tangled with her all night on the perimeter and in the paint. Harmon played physical defense at the point of attack, but escaped foul trouble. The Cyclones couldn’t say the same. Ryan fouled out with six seconds left.
“There is no freedom of movement in the game of basketball on the women’s side,” Fennelly said. “Zero. It is what it is. I’m not complaining. That’s the answer to the question.”
Fortunately for ISU, other pressing questions lead to happier answers. Sunday night the Cyclones will learn their seed and who they play in the opening round of the tournament. And Fennelly will continue to give thanks for this team, regardless of outcome, or lack of freedom of movement.
“I wouldn’t trade them for anybody,” he said. “Anyone, anytime. It’s an absolute honor to say I coach this team.”