AMES — Bill Fennelly is breathing a little easier these days.
Barring an utter collapse or the swine flu infecting a half-dozen players, Iowa State (16-3, 4-2 Big 12) has to feel awfully good about its chances of playing at Hilton Coliseum in late March and putting fannies in the seats.
Hilton is one of 16 sites for first- and second-round NCAA Tournament games.
The Cyclones’ 63-56 victory over No. 11 Oklahoma (14-5, 4-2) on Wednesday only enhances their postseason resume that also includes a win at No. 19 Texas.
After an 0-2 start in the league, ISU has ripped off four straight victories and is finally seeing the balance the coach had hoped would be there by this point in the season.
That was evident agianst the Sooners.
Reserves combined for 14 points and 15 rebounds. Freshman Jessica Schroll ripped down 11 big rebounds and scored four points. Amanda Zimmerman added six points and Whitney Williams scored three and had a key assist to Kelsey Bolte late in the game.
“It’s the best our bench has played in a long time,” Fennelly said. “It was outstanding.”
Schroll responded well to being benched and berated after drawing a technical foul against Texas. Fennelly chewed her out, sat her at the end of the bench and did not play her the rest of the game.
The 5-11 guard got herself out of the doghouse and logged a career-high 32 minutes against OU.
“She came out and played with the energy and effort that this team needed,” Fennelly said. “That showed a lot of maturity on her part and I’m very proud of her for doing that. Most young people would not have acted that way considering what she’s gone through the last three days.
“She has obviously been raised right and coached right by other people.”
Lacey has played at an all-Big 12 level all season. Bolte is finally coming around in league games and asserting herself offensively.
The newcomers are fitting in and proving they can perform in crunch time.
“I hope what is says is that our players are understanding and embracing the process,” Fennelly said. “Defensively we’ve been good most of the year. Now we are getting just enough scoring at just the right time. We are taking care of the ball and we have a great point guard.”
ISU plays at Kansas State Sunday.