No. 23 Iowa St. 72, Gonzaga 60

Through every run and every charge made at his team, Iowa State

coach Bill Fennelly never saw panic even when it would seem easy to

cave while playing in the NCAA tournament on the opponent’s home

floor.

Whether it was Brynn Williamson hitting key 3-pointers or

Chelsea Poppens scoring inside, the Cyclones finally found the

formula to end Gonzaga’s dominance at home in the NCAAs.

”Our team at times gets a little crazy, like most teams, but I

never really thought that they showed that today. … They handled

it great,” Fennelly said.

Poppens scored 19 points, Hallie Christofferson scored 11 of her

18 in the second half, and fifth-seeded Iowa State ended No. 12

seed Gonzaga’s run at home with a 72-60 win Saturday.

Gonzaga went 4-0 the past two seasons playing at the McCarthey

Athletic Center during the NCAAs in reaching the round of 16 both

years. Iowa State (24-8) stopped the trend with dynamic shooting

from behind the 3-point line and an awful shooting performance by

the Bulldogs.

Williamson hit five 3-pointers and scored 17 points for the

Cyclones, who reached the second round of the tournament for the

first time since 2010. Iowa State will face No. 4 seed Georgia on

Monday night.

”It’s huge that we are winning on the road in a great

environment like this against a really good team,” Williamson

said. ”At the end of the day we celebrate this tonight, but

tomorrow it’s back to work.”

Taelor Karr led Gonzaga (27-6) with 15 points, but the Bulldogs

shot 27 percent in the second half and 32 percent for the game.

Haiden Palmer was the only other Gonzaga player in double figures

with 14 points, but was just 1 of 8 on 3s. She did have 10

steals.

”We missed some shots that we usually knock down,” Palmer

said. ”They had a little bit of pressure but even the open looks,

that just happens sometimes.”

The Cyclones moved on despite committing 23 turnovers in front

of a raucous pro-Gonzaga crowd that crammed nearly every spot of

the 6,000-seat arena. They avoided joining Iowa, UCLA, Rutgers and

Miami as higher seeded teams who lost to Gonzaga on its home floor

in the previous two tournaments.

The Cyclones made up for the turnovers by hitting 3s from deep

and challenging Gonzaga’s shots. Iowa State hit nine 3-pointers,

including four in the first half from Williamson. Williamson

averaged just 8.3 points per game during the regular season, but

her outside shooting was critical in opening looks on the interior

for the Cyclones.

Her defense was important also, matched up against Karr most of

the game. Karr finished 5-of-10 shooting, but struggled to get open

looks. Gonzaga was a nearly 43 percent shooting team during the

regular season, but they were not immune from slumps. Four times

during the regular season, the Bulldogs failed to shoot at least 35

percent at home. They were 1-3 in those games.

The bigger problem to Gonzaga coach Kelly Graves was Iowa State

shooting 52 percent and becoming the first team this year to top 70

points against the Bulldogs.

”Our defense was tested and we didn’t past the test,” Graves

said.

Leading by three at halftime, Iowa State scored the first six

points of the second half to take its largest lead at 40-31 with 18

minutes remaining, only to go nearly 6 minutes without making a

field goal. Iowa State committed another five turnovers and missed

five straight shots before Nikki Moody finally broke the drought

with a 3-pointer. Karr immediately answered on a backdoor cut while

being fouled for a three-point play with 12:04 left, trimming the

Cyclones’ lead to 45-42.

Out of a timeout, Christofferson hit a corner 3-pointer,

followed by five straight points from Anna Prins and another 3 by

Williamson to push the advantage back to nine. Kiara Kudron

responded with a layup for Gonzaga, but Poppens had four straight

points for a 60-49 lead with 7:45 left.

The Bulldogs had one final run left, closing to 62-57 with 2:52

left after a pair of free throws from Shaniqua Nilles. Following a

shot clock violation by Iowa State, Nilles had an open 3 rim off

and Christofferson hit a pair of free throws with 1:37 left to push

the lead back to seven.

Iowa State was a perfect 10 of 10 at the free-throw line in the

closing minutes.

”You turn the ball over 23 times on the road you usually don’t

win those game,” Fennelly said. ”It was a very difficult

environment. … We beat a really good team in a tough place.”