Looking back on it, Bill Fennelly says he probably took a risk he shouldn’t have last weekend in playing injured guard Heather Ezell in Iowa State’s semifinal loss to Baylor at the Big 12 Tournament.
Ezell sat out the previous day’s game against Texas with an injured right hand/wrist, but talked the coach into letting her play against the Lady Bears.
Injure it any further and her availability for the NCAA Tournament is in question.
“What we did on Saturday was probably not smart,” Fennelly said. “She wanted to play, and she’s earned that right to make that decision.”
Fortunately, Ezell emerged unscathed and should be OK for Sunday’s first-round game against No. 13 seed East Tennessee State in Bowling Green, Ky.
She did nothing but shoot during Monday’s abbreviated workout before the selection show. Ezell was seen wearing a brace earlier in the day, but said the injury is improved.
“It’s feeling pretty good. Hopefully it’ll be good to go this weekend,” she said after ISU learned of its No. 4 seed in the Berkeley Region.
Fennelly said his senior guard and leading scorer will take it easy over the next few days but wants Ezell to be go through a full practice by the time ISU leaves town.
“She needs to be able to practice legitimately on Friday,” Fennelly said. “She can’t go from last Saturday to Sunday and just walk out there and make shots for us. She has to get out there.”
The Cyclones (24-7) are a much different team without Ezell on the floor.
Her replacement last weekend, Denae Stuckey, is more valuable as a defensive presence and a player who provides energy and toughness off the bench.
Fennelly wants to be able to game plan using Ezell in her normal role. With her career over whenever ISU next loses, the gritty guard is going to play through whatever pain she’s feeling.
“I’d be surprised if by Friday she’s not ready to go full go,” Fennelly said. “She’ll be ready. She’s not missing this.”