Monday, March 22, 1999

Teams travel different paths to showdown

Cyclones meet 'Dawgs in Women's Mideast final

The Cincinnati Enquirer

        Georgia intended to be here. As for Iowa State, the thought never even crept into preseason conversations. The Cyclones didn't intend it, didn't expect it, didn't visualize it.

        So, which approach is better?

        It will determined at 7:30 tonight in the Mideast Regional of the NCAA Women's Tournament at the University of Cincinnati's Shoemaker Center.

Plenty of good seats available: $15 for adults, $10 for students.
        The matchup is classic Cinderella vs. Godzilla with the winner getting to face the proverbial 600-pound gorilla at the Final Four in San Jose: three-time defending champion Tennessee.

        Under coach Andy Landers, Georgia has been to 15 NCAA Tournaments and four Final Fours. The list of distinguished basketball alums reads like a who's who: Teresa Edwards, Katrina McClain, Saudia Roundtree.

        Meanwhile, when Iowa State coach Bill Fennelly first set foot in the home of prospective recruitee Monica Huelman four years ago, he didn't have so much as a media guide with him. He had just taken over the moribund program.

        “He didn't have anything with him about Iowa State women's basketball to show me or my parents,” Huelman said. “The program at that time was so down, I don't think he wanted to reflect on any of that and put that image in my mind. He just talked about rebuilding.”

        And, oh my, what a first recruit Huelman turned out to be. In Saturday's semifinal, she is the player who began the blizzard of three-pointers that buried No.1-seededConnecticut, in a shocker, 64-58.

        So why, a reporter asked Monica, did you let Fennelly into your home?

        “I'd like to know the answer to that question myself,” answered Fennelly, before Huelman could even lean into the microphone Sunday.

        Huelman said it was Fennelly's perseverance.

        “In the summer before I made my decision, I had to play 30 games in five days and I went from St. Joseph, Mo., to Omaha, Neb., and he followed me to both cities and was at all 30 of those games in the dead heat of the summer,” she said. “I don't know why he was sitting in those gyms watching my team play, but that commitment made me decide I wanted to be committed back to him.”

        After a night of celebrating followed by a long sleep — “there was so much emotion from the game, we were all knocked out,” said point guard Stacy Frese — Fennelly jump-started his team with a spirited practice Sunday.

        Any chance ISU will be still riding the UConn high tonight instead of being able to focus on upsetting another power?

        “No, if anything it gave us more confidence,” Huelman said. “Here we are, we beat UConn, we're on ESPN seeing ourselves and realizing we are a good team and we do belong here. This is where the Iowa State basketball team is supposed to be. It's not a fluke or anything. It's the right thing.”

        Frese, the scrawny point guard whose 14 second-half points sank UConn, said she and her teammates are concerned with Georgia's athleticism.

        “Any time you play a team of Georgia's caliber, they're going to run up and down the court; they're going to rebound and play aggressive man-to-man defense,” Frese said.

        “We're going to have to do the little things right, ” she said, referring to aggressive perimeter defense on the Bulldogs' talented guards and boxing out the big people.

        Landers said his team hasn't faced anybody this season that has Iowa State's ability to make three-pointers.

        “Often, late in the season or into the tournament, everybody's running the same thing — inside-outside motion, boxed diagonal ... but Iowa State is fresh and different,” because of their ability to get the ball to the hot hand outside, he said.

        “It's a unique and wonderful challenge for us,” he said.