And here you have it Cyclone fans, we have the top-five most memorable wins in Iowa State women’s basketball history. We hope you enjoyed our list, and feel free to let us know in the comment section if we got it right.
5. Iowa State 74, Texas 56: Feb. 19, 1997
In the second year of Fennelly’s tenure, the Texas Longhorns came to Hilton Coliseum ranked ninth in the nation. It was the first time the Longhorns had faced a Bill Fennelly coached Iowa State team in Hilton.
It became clear from the start of the game, the Cyclones were on the rise. If you were going to beat them, you had to compete. Unfortunately for Texas, they hadn’t gotten the memo just yet.
Iowa State would jump out to a 34-28 halftime lead. Fennelly would tell the team at halftime that the next four minutes it would feel like there were seven players out on the court for Texas. He knew they would be coming for them.
He was right. Texas would come out firing and retake the lead at the 11:49 mark, 42-41. Iowa State would not be outdone, as Jayme Olson, who was inducted into the Iowa State Letterwinners Hall of Fame this year, would net a 3-pointer with 7:01 remaining to give ISU a 52-50 lead they wouldn’t relinquish. The Cyclone offense exploded on a 22-6 run to close the game.
The final score would read Iowa State 74, Texas 56 and that Cyclone team would go on to make history by becoming the first team in school history to make the NCAA Tournament as they would travel to Charlottesville, Va. at the end of the season to face Utah.
4. Iowa State 75, Texas 65 (Big 12 Championship Final): March 12, 2000
It was March 12, 2000 and the Cyclones advanced to their first Big 12 Championship final game. The Cyclones had tied Texas Tech and Oklahoma for the Big 12 regular season title with a 13-3 league record. Iowa State would face an athletic Texas team in the finals.
The Cyclones’ starting five was Desiree Francis, Megan Taylor, Angie Welle, Stacy Frese and Tracy Gahan. Iowa State was hot from the start as the Cyclones shot 42.9 percent from the floor in the first half, while the Longhorns shot 25.6 percent.
Hot shooting and strong defense allowed Iowa State to take a 10-point lead tot he locker room, 31-21. This Iowa State team was looking to make history in this Big 12 Tournament. The Cyclones were just five years in to Fennelly’s tenure and just six years removed from an 8-19 record and a 1-13 league record.
This Cyclone team was not about to let Texas spoil the fun — and they didn’t Iowa State would maintain its lead, downing UT 75-65 in Kansas City, Mo.
The win gave Iowa State its first Big 12 Tournament title in school history in just five years with Fennelly at the helm.
3. Iowa State 69, Michigan State 68 (NCAA Sweet 16): March 28, 2009
The 2009 Sweet 16 game against Michigan State proved Hilton Magic does not just exist inside of Hilton Coliseum.
The Cyclones and Spartans were ready to go with a trip to the Elite Eight on the line. Iowa State was desperate to return to the Elite Eight 10 years after its first appearance.
The game would go down as one of the greatest comebacks in school history. As the clock ticked down to 1:10, Iowa State was down by seven, 61-68.
With little time left, Iowa State had to turn on the full court press, which is something Iowa State does “about once in a decade,” according to Fennelly.
After a layup by Nicky Wieben, the full court press was successful in forcing an MSU turnover, as Heather Ezell banked in a 3-pointer to bring the Cyclones within two, 66-68.
It was Alison Lacey who would come up big for the Cyclones with a steal. After a series of two-point misses and offensive rebounds by the Cyclones, Ezell kicked it out to Lacey for an open 3-pointer.
Fennelly had instructed the team to take quick two’s, but Lacey got the open 3-pointer and nailed it to put the Cyclones up 69-68 with 23 seconds remaining. After the game, Lacey commented she hadn’t been that excited and relieved in a long time as the 3-pointer went in.
Michigan State would call a timeout, but time would expire on the Spartans, sending Iowa State to its second Elite Eight appearance in school history.
In the postgame press conference Fennelly said the game was one of the best he has ever been a part of.
The 2009 Sweet 16 contest is listed at No. 3 on the list not just for the fact it led to the program’s second Elite Eight, but because of how the Cyclones won the game. The frantic comeback made the impossible possible.
2. Iowa State 74, Iowa 57: Dec. 13, 1997
It was Iowa’s first visit to Iowa State since 1989. The Hawkeyes were long considered the top dog in the state of Iowa in relation to women’s basketball. Iowa State was looking for its first win over Iowa in 15 years.
The game was only the second meeting between the two schools in six years, as the two teams took a mutual break due to a competitive imbalance. Upon Fennelly’s hiring, he vowed to get Iowa back on the schedule. In his second season, Fennelly successfully added the Hawkeyes to schedule. ISU traveled to Carver-Hawkeye Arena and put up a hard-fought battle, falling 53-64. Despite the loss, the Cyclones proved they could hang with Iowa, thus making way for an annual meeting between the two squads.
Iowa State shot lights out in the first half, connecting on 15-of-26 from the field at a 57.7 percent clip. At the half, Iowa State led the Hawkeyes 46-28. The 18-point deficit would prove too much for the Hawkeyes to overcome as ISU cruised to victory. The Cyclones used double-digit performances from Megan Taylor (25), Desiree Francis (15), Tracy Gahan (14) and Stacy Frese (12) to power past the Hawkeyes, 81-65.
The win was witnessed by a then-school record 5,169 fans who packed into Hilton Coliseum for the showdown. Since the arrival of Bill Fennelly, Iowa State is 12-7 against Iowa.
1. Iowa State 64, Connecticut 58 (NCAA Sweet 16): March 20, 1999
Iowa State had advanced to its first Sweet 16 in program history and it was just its third NCAA Tournament appearance. However the Cyclones had already made quite an impression on the NCAA Women’s Basketball community with eight wins over ranked teams in just four seasons under Fennelly.
The Cyclones had even made enough of an impression to be able to host the first and second rounds of the NCAA Tournament in back-to-back seasons. Ames, Iowa was one of the top attended host sites. Iowa State defeated Santa Clara, 74-61, and Oregon, 85-70, to advance to face No. 1 seed Connecticut in the Sweet 16 in Cincinnati, Ohio.
It’s true that nobody picked Iowa State to down mighty UConn in Cincinnati. The Huskies were a national power, and Iowa State was only four seasons in to Fennelly’s tenure. At the pregame press conference Iowa State players fielded questions asking about how happy they were to be there. Yes, they were happy to be in the Sweet 16, but this wasn’t the type of team that was just happy to be anywhere. They wanted more. They had tasted big wins before and they were used to being underestimated.
There are more storylines to the 1999 UConn game than probably any game in Iowa State history. There were countless tales of fans that drove from around the country to pack the Shoemaker Center to cheer on Iowa State. Fennelly had quite a large cheering section himself as he was only a few years removed from his former job as the head coach at Toledo. Even the Hilton Coliseum tech crew packed into a van to head to Cincinnati for the game.
Even if nobody else thought Iowa State was capable of knocking off top-seeded Connecticut, there were plenty of fans donning Cardinal and Gold that knew what this team was capable of.
It was a back-and-forth affair featuring multiple lead changes. Both team’s struggled offensively and were searching for that spark to ignite its offensive game. That spark for Iowa State was Monica Huelman. She hit what is heralded as the biggest 3-pointer in Cyclone women’s basketball history. Huelman’s 3-pointer would kick off a 12-4 Iowa State run as the Cyclones knocked off UConn, 64-58.
There are many wins in Iowa State women’s basketball, but it’s hard to think of the greatest games ever played in ISU history without ISU vs. UConn rolling off the tongue first. The national spotlight, combined with the quality of opponent make this the biggest win in school history.
On March 20, 1999 the women’s basketball world’s view of Iowa State changed forever. Gone were the phrases “up and coming,” “on the rise” and “team to watch.” Finally, the Cyclones had truly shined on the national stage, and the country saw what everyone in Ames, Iowa and the state of Iowa already knew— that Iowa State was the real deal.
Thanks for reading our list of memorable wins. Here’s to hoping we can get another against the third-ranked Longhorns on Saturday.