AMES, Iowa (AP) Iowa State had ailing senior guard Alison Lacey for all of two seconds on Saturday.
Lacey’s teammates stepped up in her absence, allowing the Cyclones’ star some much-needed rest heading into the Big 12 tournament.
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Kelsey Bolte scored 19 points, freshman Anna Prins added 12 and No. 13 Iowa State beat Colorado 59-41 Saturday to lock up the No. 2 seed for next week’s conference tournament.
The Cyclones (23-6, 11-5) did it all minus Lacey, who has been battling a bronchial illness and is day to day.
Lacey started as a ceremonial gesture on Senior Day, but Iowa State fouled immediately so Lacey could get off the floor as quickly.
“Having (Lacey) in the building, everyone was smiling a little bit. We did what we did to start the game so she could have her moment to start,” Iowa State coach Bill Fennelly said.
The rest of the Cyclones took over from there, grabbing the lead just over three minutes in and never giving it back. Iowa State leaned on Bolte and the freshman post duo of Prins and Chelsea Poppens to push back the struggling Buffaloes (13-16, 3-13).
Colorado got as close as 47-41 with 6:59 left, but Bolte nailed a 3 and Prins hit a layup to highlight a 12-0 run to close the game.
Poppens added 10 points and nine rebounds for Iowa State.
Alyssa Fressle had 10 points to lead Colorado (13-16, 3-13), which finished the regular season with 11 losses in 12 games. The Buffs will be the 11th seed in the conference tournament.
Brittany Spears hit a pair of layups in the final 22 seconds to pull the Buffs within 28-24 at the break. The Cyclones jumped back ahead by double digits midway through the second half, though, as Bolte buried a 3 and Amanda Zimmerman hit a layup in the paint to push the lead to 45-35 with 10:47 left.
Iowa State held the Buffs to 15-of-55 shooting from the field, and none of their baskets came in the final 6:59.
“We all knew that we that we had to play harder and we had to get it done and finish the game out,” Iowa State guard Denae Stuckey said.
Spears, Colorado’s leading scorer, had eight points in just 13 minutes. Fennelly said Spears told him after the game that she wasn’t feeling well.
It turned out to be a smart move to rest Lacey against the Buffs, because Iowa State had enough to get by. Stuckey played well in Lacey’s absence, scoring nine points with nine rebounds, five assists and no turnovers.
There’s little doubt, though, that Lacey’s health will play a key role in how far the Cyclones go in the postseason. Lacey led Iowa State with 17.1 points and 6.5 assists per game entering the finale, and her assist-to-turnover ratio of over 3-to-1 tops the nation.
Lacey’s illness has left her fatigued and with some trouble breathing. Since the Cyclones were already assured of an all-important bye for next week’s Big 12 tournament, there was little sense in risking Lacey’s health in the regular-season finale.
Lacey scored a season-low eight points in a win over Kansas State last Saturday. By the middle of the week, she was so sick she didn’t even make the trip for Iowa State’s 78-70 loss at No. 20 Oklahoma State on Wednesday.
“I’m getting better each day,” Lacey said. “Don’t know when I’ll be back. Just depends on how well I recover.”
Though Lacey’s health is improving, there’s no timetable for her return. Iowa State’s next game will be on Friday in the Big 12 tournament in Kansas City.
“I really don’t know. This is the first time I’ve seen her upright,” Fennelly said of Lacey. “She’s hoping. She’s still hurting a little bit. But she told me that she really obviously wants to play and expects to play.”