Iowa State women’s basketball coach Bill Fennelly and his top senior players, Anna Prins and Chelsea Poppens, could be forgiven if they dreaded Sunday morning’s press conference at McCarthey Athletic Center.
The Cyclones gladly talked about Saturday afternoon’s NCAA tournament-opening win over Gonzaga and tonight’s second-round game against Georgia.
But the timing sure was lousy.
The press conference occurred at the same time Iowa State’s men were attempting to upset Ohio State at the NCAA tournament. Prins and Poppens finished answering questions just before the game ended, but Fennelly received news of Ohio State’s buzzer-beating win while on the podium.
True to the nature of his profession, Fennelly accepted the news with a brief anguished response before moving on to the task at hand.
Fennelly’s fifth-seeded Cyclones (24-8) will meet the fourth-seeded Bulldogs (26-6) at 6:50 tonight at McCarthey for a trip to the Sweet 16 on Saturday night at the Arena.
Iowa State and Georgia have met twice at the tournament. Georgia, which won both times, denied the Cyclones a trip to the Final Four in 1999.
“No, it never fades, never, never,” Fennelly said of the Elite Eight loss. “I think about it all the time. … And I think if you do let it go, you’re in the wrong profession.”
Iowa State boasts a height advantage with 6-foot-7 senior Prins, 6-2 senior Poppens and 6-3 junior Hallie Christofferson, all 1,000-point career scorers.
“One thing that I would say stands out is their size and the way that they go about using it,” said Georgia senior guard Jasmine James, one of three Bulldogs who scored in double figures during Saturday’s 70-50 win over Montana. “I mean, they have players who have pretty good height, but they can also step out and shoot it.”
Georgia has a deeper bench and a mixture of senior leadership and talented freshmen. Jasmine Hassell, a 6-2 senior, leads the Bulldogs in scoring and rebounding and had a game-high 16 points against Montana.
“I noticed they are really good and quick on their feet and they know how to get to the right people at the right time,” Poppens said of Georgia.
Georgia’s SEC-style defensive pressure may come into play as Iowa State committed 23 turnovers during Saturday’s win over Gonzaga.
“The SEC is really going to get up into you and guard you a little bit more,” Fennelly said.
“I think one thing we learned from the Gonzaga game, they did a good job of pressuring us, trapping us,” Prins said. “I think just staying calm and not letting pressure rile you up is really important.”
Fennelly said his conference, the Big 12, generally puts more emphasis on offense than the SEC.
“Our conference is very defensive-oriented,” Georgia coach Andy Landers said. “We play some ugly games in our league. We play some games that are hard as a coach to get through, because of it. … (But) you just have to be tough. You don’t have a choice. If you’re not tough, then our league will grind you down.”
Normally division championships are celebrated with champagne showers in the locker room. The Spokane Indians settled for cheering and high fives on a crowded bus.
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