No. 16 Iowa St. 60, Green Bay 56
Iowa State huddled at mid-court after a tension-filled game and when they broke, Kelsey Bolte held up a sign.
It read ``Sweet 16'' and drew a roar from the partisan crowd of 6,498.
Yes, the Cyclones are headed back to the regional semifinals. But it sure wasn't easy getting there.
Bolte scored 15 points, including the go-ahead 3-pointer with 1:11 left, and Iowa State held on to beat Wisconsin-Green Bay 60-56 Tuesday night.
The fourth-seeded Cyclones (25-7) got all they could handle from the feisty, 12th-seeded Phoenix before finally making a couple of big shots down the stretch to reach the regional semifinals for the second straight year and fifth time overall.
Iowa State's reward, if you can call it that, for all its hard work is a date with unbeaten Connecticut in Dayton, Ohio, on Sunday.
Anna Prins added 13 points for Iowa State, while Alison Lacey scored 12, handed out seven assists and made two big defensive plays at the end to rescue the Cyclones, who trailed by as many as 10 points and never had more than a one-point lead until the final 4 seconds.
``We were lucky we were still in the game with the way we played in the first half,'' Lacey said. ``We just refused to lose.''
Wisconsin-Green Bay (28-5), trying to become just the second No. 12 seed to advance past the second round, got a career-high 29 points from Kayla Tetschlag and frustrated Iowa State all game long with its switching, trapping man-to-man defense.
But the Phoenix went scoreless after taking a 56-54 lead on Tetschlag's 3-pointer from the right corner as the shot clock buzzer sounded and Iowa State escaped.
Bolte connected from the left wing for a 57-56 lead after teammate Chelsea Poppens drew a charging foul on Tetschlag. But she missed a 3 from the left corner that could have sealed the deal with 31 seconds to play, giving Wisconsin-Green Bay a chance at the final shot.
Lacey, however, cut off Celeste Hoewisch's basline drive and forced her out of bounds with 4.3 seconds remaining.
``I knew she was going to have the ball in her hands,'' Lacey said. ``She is their best player. I thought it was my job to get a stop. I think it was the most focused I've been on defense in my career here.''
The Phoenix fouled immediately after the turnover and Bolte sank two free throws to make it 59-56. Lacey then leaped to intercept Wisconsin-Green Bay's inbounds pass into the forecourt and sank a final free throw to finish it off.
Wisconsin-Green Bay coach Matt Bollant wanted to get the ball to Tetschlag in the high post at the end or find a way to get it inside.
``The other option was to have Celeste turn the corner,'' he said. ``Unfortunately, we got the ball in the corner and they played pretty good defense.''
Now, it's mighty Connecticut, winner of a record 74 straight games, up next for the Cyclones. If there's any consolation for Iowa State, it's this: The most recent meeting between the two also took place in Ohio and the Cyclones won, stunning the top-seeded Huskies 64-58 in the 1999 regional semifinals in Cincinnati.
This Connecticut team is much better than that one, but after Tuesday night's close call, the Cyclones are just happy to get the opportunity.
``Everybody knows that I'm nuts. I'm excited to play them,'' ISU coach Bill Fennelly said. ``It's the best team I've ever seen on the biggest stage you can have.''
Wisconsin-Green Bay gave Iowa State fits with its aggressive defense, which kept the Cyclones from getting the ball inside to the 6-foot-7 Prins yet still contested most of ISU's 3-point shots.
Fourth nationally in 3-point shoot percentage, Iowa State missed its first five shots from behind the arc and eight of its first nine. They finished 8 for 24 from long range, with Bolte hitting the one that counted the most.
``Everybody keeps asking about that (shot) and it was all a blur,'' said Bolte, who had been 2-for-9 on 3s before sinking her big shot. ``Coach just kept telling me to shoot it - and not miss like I had before.''
Tetschlag, meanwhile, hit a variety of shots at the other end. She knocked down two 3-pointers in helping the Phoenix jump to a 10-0 lead, added seven points in a 10-1 run that put her team up 22-12 and converted a three-point play after dropping in a basket over Prins.
Things went so well for the Phoenix in the opening half that after Iowa State drew to 32-29 on Jessica Schroll's three-point play, they got one last chance with 1.4 seconds left. Inbounding the ball from Iowa State's end, Heather Golden threw a long pass to the other end. The ball went through Bolte's hands and caromed right to Stephanie Sension, who hit a jumper at the buzzer.