Iowa St opens women’s tournament out to erase bad memories

Mar 17, 2022, 2:50 AM | Updated: 2:53 pm
West Virginia guard Savannah Samuel (24) protects the ball from Iowa State guard Ashley Joens (24) ...

West Virginia guard Savannah Samuel (24) protects the ball from Iowa State guard Ashley Joens (24) during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game in Morgantown, W.Va., Saturday, March 5, 2022. (AP Photo/William Wotring)

(AP Photo/William Wotring)

AMES, Iowa (AP) — Iowa State’s players don’t need to be reminded about the disappointing ending to last season.

All summer the scoreboard in their practice facility read “Texas A&M 84, Iowa State 82” and, in a nod to the San Antonio bubble where the NCAA Tournament was played, they worked out in T-shirts with the message “Remember the Alamo.”

“Just kind of a mental reminder of where we were last year and kind of what we don’t want to do this year, and just taking that next step forward and use it as motivation,” said Ashley Joens, the Cyclones’ star guard and all-time leading scorer.

The Cyclones (26-6), the No. 3 seed in the Greensboro Region, have a chance to erase those bad memories when they open the NCAA Tournament against No. 14 Texas-Arlington (20-7) at Hilton Coliseum on Friday night.

No. 6 Georgia (20-9) plays No. 11 Dayton (26-5) in the early game. Dayton set up its game with the Bulldogs by beating DePaul 88-57 in Ames on Wednesday.

The Cyclones haven’t advanced past the second round in eight appearances since 2010. They were on the cusp of the Sweet 16 last year, never trailing Texas A&M in regulation before losing on Jordan Nixon’s layup at the buzzer in overtime.

Coach Bill Fennelly said he didn’t want his players to look at the scoreboard and T-shirts as a negative.

“I think this group, it was more of a reminder of possibilities and opportunities that we didn’t take advantage of, and I think our team understands that,” Fennelly said. “It’s just something that just gave them a visual of why am I doing this every single day in June, in July, in August? To our kids’ credit, we got to this point.”

The Cyclones opened the season 16-1, finished second to Baylor in the Big 12 and set a program record with three all-conference first-team selections in Jones, Lexi Donarski and Emily Ryan.

Texas-Arlington is in the tournament for the first time since 2007 after winning the Sun Belt Conference Tournament title. The Lady Mavs haven’t beaten a Power Five opponent since November 2019 and have never played the Cyclones. They’re led by Sun Belt player of the year Starr Jacobs, who averages 21.1 points per game.

“They’re in the NCAA Tournament for a reason,” Ryan said. “They won their conference tournament easily. They didn’t have any trouble. They have the conference player of the year on their team as well. We’re going to have to really focus and play our scout team and do what we can to limit what they do best and see where that takes us.”

DAYTON-GEORGIA IS ABOUT ‘D’

Points could be at a premium in the Dayton-Georgia game. The Flyers held DePaul 30 points under its nation-leading scoring average of 87 points per game. Georgia held 14 opponents to 56 points or less.

Georgia coach Joni Taylor said a priority will be to close out on the Flyers’ perimeter shooters. Jenna Giacone shoots 38% on 3-pointers, Makira Cook is at 37% and Erin Whalen 35%.

“They’ve got a few people who can just really stroke it,” Taylor said. “What really stood out last night was how they shot it in transition. So that’s a key area for us, making sure we get back and we get checked up and run people off the 3-point line. This is a team where if you let them do what they do ‘well, you’re going to be in for a long night.”

Sixth-year players Jenna Staiti and Que Morrison lead the Bulldogs, averaging 15 and 14 points per game, respectively.

BEEN THERE, DONE THAT

This is Georgia’s 35th appearance in 40 NCAA Tournaments, tying Stanford for the second-most appearances in tourney history.

Georgia is in its seventh season under Taylor, the 2021 SEC coach of the year. She followed Hall of Fame coach Andy Landers, who retired in 2015.

“We are here because of what Coach Landers did and the vision he had for Georgia women’s basketball,” Taylor said. “So it’s with great humility and responsibility that we want to make sure we’re continuing to not only maintain, but enhance the legacy that is Georgia basketball.”

COACH’S HOMECOMING

Dayton coach Shauna Green is back in her home state. She was a star volleyball and basketball player at Clinton High in the mid-1990s.

“I never would have imagined being able to come back here and be the head coach at a university like Dayton and being able to coach in the NCAA tournament at Iowa State,” Green said. “Growing up, knowing the tradition with Iowa and as well as Iowa State women’s basketball, I watched it and you know the success that they have all had. It’s pretty cool.”

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More AP women’s college basketball: https://apnews.com/hub/womens-college-basketball and https://apnews.com/hub/ap-top-25-womens-college-basketball-poll and https://twitter.com/AP_Top25

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Iowa St opens women’s tournament out to erase bad memories