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Cyclones dodge limelight, ready for Michigan State

March 28, 2009

AMES - Iowa State can take a line from Rodney Dangerfield, they get no respect.

The spotlight has been on who the Cyclones have played, instead of ISU itself, this NCAA women's basketball tournament.

Fourth-seeded Iowa State defeated Ball State Tuesday in the second round to advance to tonight's Berkeley Regional semifinal against No. 9 Michigan State (22-10) at 8 p.m.

All the talk going in was about Ball State's upset of Tennessee in the first round. Now it has turned to being about how Michigan State upset No. 1 seed Duke to make the Sweet 16 and that the Cyclones 'only' had to play No. 13 East Tennessee State and No. 12 Ball State to advance to Berkeley.

"We're one of those teams unfortunately all year - and I feel bad for the kids - no one's given us credit for being in the Sweet 16. It's because what everybody else didn't do," said Iowa State head coach Bill Fennelly.

"You have to go play. If people want to discount what this team has done that's fine. I don't really care," Fennelly added. "We're playing and those other teams aren't."

Fact Box

Cy in the Sweet 16

Here's a breakdown detailing Iowa State's four visits all-time to the Sweet 16. The Cyclones have advanced to the Elite 8 just once.

2009 - No. 4 seed against No. 9 Michigan State

2001 - No. 2 seed lost to No. 3 Vanderbilt

2000 - No. 3 seed lost to No. 2 Penn State

1999 - No. 4 seed beat No. 1 Connecticut

The Cyclones have flown under the radar even with their 26-8 record (tied for the most wins in a season in school history), No. 17 national ranking and third-place finish in the Big 12.

"We're a team that's not going to want to have all the glory and fame," said senior guard Heather Ezell. "We're going to do all the work we can and if we get some congratulations along the way we're fine with it, but if not we're going to keep working keep doing all the things we've been doing all year and hopefully the successes still come."

Respect for the Cyclones comes in the form of still playing.

"It's validation for a group of kids that has done everything I've asked them to do," Fennelly said of the trip to the Sweet 16, the fourth in school history. "I've been harder on this team than any other team I've ever coached by far."

The Iowa State-Michigan State winner faces the winner of No. 2 Stanford and No. 3 Ohio State Monday.

"I think our kids understand they can play at a high level. We played in the best conference in the country all year. We played the best schedule we've ever played since I've been here," Fennelly said. "We've beaten a lot of really good teams and we're finding ways to win in different ways and I think our players, because of the experience they have and a really, really motivated senior class, they understand what it takes to keep playing."

Michigan State, which tied for second in the Big Ten, is the first No. 9 seed in the regional semifinals since 1998.

The Spartans' bread and butter combination has been defense and rebounding. In addition to ranking 22nd nationally in scoring defense (54.9 points per game), they recorded the lowest field goal percentage defense in conference games in Big Ten history at 35.3 percent. Michigan State also owns a plus-7.7 rebounding margin and leads the Big Ten by grabbing 40.8 percent of possible rebounds on the offense end.

Forward Aisha Jefferson leads the Spartans in scoring at 11.2 points per game and center Allyssa DeHaan adds 10.4 ppg.

Iowa State has three double-digit scorers in Ezell (11.7 ppg), Alison Lacey (10.9 ppg) and Nicky Wieben (10.6 ppg).

As much attention as the Spartans' defense grabs, Iowa State is ahead of them in the national rankings. Iowa State is surrendering only 53.8 points per game - 10th in the country.

"It's still a lot of talk about them and not very much about us, it's almost like a little bit of an underdog thing," Ezell said.



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