WBB: Iowa State Is No. 5 Seed, Plays At Gonzaga

By Rob Gray, Reporter

Iowa State's Hallie Christofferson (5), Chelsea Poppens (33) and Lauren Mansfield celebrate after a basket during the second half of an NCAA college basketball game against Drake, Tuesday, Nov. 15, 2011, in Des Moines, Iowa. Iowa State won 71-64. (AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall)

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By Grant Burkhardt

AMES, Iowa — The future glimmers with possibilities.

The past draws smiles and laughter.

“We always just discuss how it seems like it was yesterday that we were young, naive, kind of pushed into the post position as freshmen,” Iowa State senior star Chelsea Poppens said of reminisces with teammate and fellow career 1,000-points scorer Anna Prins. “But I’m happy with where we’ve gotten to so far.”

Now to get another win. Or two. And so on.

Poppens and Prins helped propel the Cyclones (23-8) into their seventh straight NCAA women’s basketball tournament — one of 13 teams that can claim that distinction.

The roommates learned Monday their team would be a five seed, facing 12-seeded host Gonzaga (27-5) in Saturday’s 3:15 p.m. first-round game at Spokane, Wash.

“In this tournament, you know if you win one or two you’re going to play a really good team on their home court,” ISU coach Bill Fennelly said. “So might as well do it right out of the chute.”

It’s another welcomed challenge for Poppens and Prins, who will play in the sixth tournament game of their careers.

“I think we had a unique situation coming in,” said Prins, who along with Poppens helped craft a Cyclone run to the Sweet 16 in 2010. “We didn’t really have anyone ahead of us, so we kind of got thrown out there. Thankfully we did because we’ve learned a lot from that moment.”

Now, as Prins said, they along with mostly younger teammates want such moments to “just keep coming.”

Fennelly said “someone does something” if there’s to be a win, two wins or more in the tournament.

And that something usually ends up being off-script.

Example one: Monica Huelman’s unlikely 3-pointer that spurred a monumental comeback win in the 1999 Sweet 16 over No. 1 seed Connecticut.

Example two: The Cyclones’ surprise press that helped them storm back from seven points down late against Michigan State in 2009, thus punching their ticket to the Elite Eight.

“That’s what makes this tournament so special,” Fennelly said. “It’s not a normal line up, let’s play, you do your thing, we do our thing.”

In this case, the something would be a mild upset, despite seeding, of Gonzaga on the road.

The Zags boast the nation’s ninth-best turnover margin at plus-5.9 per game.

The Cyclones rank 279th in that stat — at minus 2.6.

“I think if we play really well, then we can win some games,” Fennelly said. “If we do the things that have cost us in the past, whether it be turn the ball over, not shoot the ball well, it will be one and done. And that’s kind of the nature of this tournament.”

Poppens and Prins know that.

They’ve helped the Cyclones reach the Sweet 16 once.

They’ve also endured two straight first-round losses.

“It’s our last go-around,” Poppens said. “We don’t want to leave anything on the court.”

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