March 29, 2009 in Sports

Iowa State thwarts upset bid

Cyclones score last eight points to beat Spartans
Josh Dubow Associated Press
 

BERKELEY, Calif. – As the loose ball made its way out to Alison Lacey behind the 3-point arc in the closing seconds, she contemplated what to do next.

“When I got the ball, I thought, ‘Should I shoot?’ ” Lacey said. “Then I said, ‘Just do it and see what happens.’ ”

Good decision.

Lacey hit a go-ahead 3-pointer off a scramble with 27.5 seconds left and fourth-seeded Iowa State scored the final eight points in a 69-68 victory over ninth-seeded Michigan State on Saturday night.

With a comeback for the ages, this year’s Cyclones squad joins the 1999 version that was honored earlier this year as the only ones to go this far in the women’s tournament.

“I’m not going to say there was no doubt we could still win the game. I won’t lie to you about that,” Cyclones coach Bill Fennelly said. “Just finish the game to the bitter end and see what happens.”

What happened was one of the most memorable wins in Iowa State history.

Michigan State had gone ahead 68-61 on Aisha Jefferson’s jumper with 1:26 left and appeared poised to pull off another upset.

Nicky Wieben started the comeback with her only basket of the game on a putback and the Cyclones (27-8) turned up the defensive pressure. A steal by Kelsey Bolte led to Heather Ezell’s banked-in 3-pointer that cut the lead to 68-66 with a minute to go.

“We don’t practice that a lot, only for special situations,” Fennelly said of the press. “We just want everybody lined up right. … That’s not a normal way for Iowa State to win a game, but that’s what tournament basketball is all about. At that point you’re scrambling.”

Lykendra Johnson then turned it over in the backcourt again for Michigan State (22-11), setting up Lacey’s heroics. Iowa State tried to get the ball inside but Amanda Nisleit missed and Allyssa DeHaan blocked Bolte’s follow attempt.

The loose ball made it out to Lacey, who drained the 3-pointer to give her 29 points and the Cyclones the lead. The Iowa State players poured off the bench to mob Lacey at midcourt during a timeout, but the win was far from secure.

Kalisha Keane missed a 3-pointer for the Spartans, who kept possession after a held ball on the rebound. Following a timeout, Jefferson and Johnson missed shots from in close to give the Cyclones the win.

DeHaan scored 24 points to lead Michigan State, but didn’t get a touch on the last possession and walked off the court with tears in her eyes.

“I think we had a couple of good looks at it,” DeHaan said. “We hit the boards hard, but we didn’t get the call in our favor. That’s how it goes sometimes.”

Iowa State advanced to face Stanford for a trip to the Final Four.

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