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Wieben, DeHaan at center of attention

March 27, 2009
By MARK PAWLAK

AMES - The spotlight will be on the center.

When Iowa State faces Michigan State Saturday in the regional semifinals of the NCAA women's basketball tournament in Berkeley, Calif., two centers that both are their school's all-time leader in blocked shots will take the floor.

At least the fourth-seeded Cyclones (26-8) hope theirs will be healthy.

Six-foot-four senior Nicky Wieben suffered a foot injury in the late going of Tuesday's win over Ball State that sent Iowa State to the Sweet 16.

Her availability for Saturday is questionable.

"Every extra minute we get will help get her back," Iowa State head coach Bill Fennelly said Thursday afternoon before his team left for California.

Fact Box

Saturday, 8 p.m. (ESPN)

At Haas Pavilion, Berkeley, Calif.

"X-rays are fine, but right now she's in a boot and hasn't practiced. It's day-to-day, minute-to-minute, we'll see," Fennelly added. "If the game was (Thursday), she wouldn't have played. Hopefully by Saturday night she'll be better."

The Cyclones have played without an injured Wieben before (she missed the second half of last year with a knee injury) and also have plenty of 3-point sharpshooters to fall back on.

Iowa State hit 16 3-pointers in the first round against East Tennessee State to tie the tournament single-game mark. The Cyclones are 10th nationally in treys per game with 8.1.

Shooting from the outside looks to be a good idea considering No. 9-seed Michigan State has Allyssa DeHaan in the middle. The junior center stands 6-9.

"She's a kid that can do a lot of things to change games and there isn't a lot of players in the women's game that can change games like that," Fennelly said.

DeHaan is fifth nationally with 3.2 blocks per game this winter. Her 397 career blocks are best in the Big Ten and eighth in NCAA history.

"She's going to block a shot, we have to understand to not panic when she does it," Fennelly said. "We won't be the first team that she's blocked a shot against, but you don't want to run away from her."

The Spartans upset No. 8-seed Middle Tennessee in the first round and No. 1-seed Duke to advance to Berkeley. They are only the third No. 9-seed to play in the Sweet 16 in tournament history.

Michigan State was at home for those two games, but its defense has been stifling no matter the locale.

"I think the first thing with Michigan State, they are a very good defensive team," Fennelly said.

The Spartans are in the top 25 nationally in field goal percentage defense (sixth, 3.42 percent), 3-point field goal percentage defense (eighth, 26.5 percent), blocked shots (15th, 5.8) and scoring defense (25th, 54.9).

They have been even better of late against the 3-point shot as over the last 18 games, opponents are shooting 23.9 percent.

 
 

 

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