By Rob Gray
AMES — Iowa State’s Chelsea Poppens rarely struggles chasing down key rebounds, bracing for jarring charges, or spinning for cheer-raising layups.
Finding the right words for her traditional senior night post-game speech — which follows today’s 7 p.m. Big 12 regular season-closing matchup with Oklahoma State at Hilton Coliseum — is another matter entirely.
“I’m not really good at speeches,” said Poppens, one of two players in program history to record both 1,000 points and 1,000 rebounds in a career. “I’m a little bit nervous for it. You’ve got to thank everyone that helped make me, me.”
That, as fellow seniors Anna Prins and Amanda Zimmerman reiterated, forms exhaustive respective lists.
“It’s crazy thinking about the last game playing at Hilton, ever,” said Prins, also a career 1,000 points scorer. “I’m trying not to think about it too much.”
Recalling the previous meeting between the Cyclones (20-7, 11-6) and Cowgirls (20-8, 9-8) brings consternation instead of heartfelt appreciation.
Oklahoma State handed second-place ISU its worst loss of the season, 71-42, on Jan. 20 at Stillwater.
Cyclone coach Bill Fennelly was displeased with the effort and also dismayed that the Cowgirls’ starters remained in the game well after the outcome had been sealed.
“They embarrassed us and enjoyed doing it,” said Fennelly, whose team is coming off a 61-58 loss to previously one-win TCU on the road. “That’s a fact. I’m sorry, I’m not trying to be rude. It’s a 30-point game and whatever. But the bottom line is it’s our job to stop them from scoring. I can’t control what anybody else is doing. But that was certainly the worst game of the year for us by any measure. ... Now we have an opportunity to try to correct that a little bit.”
On senior night, no less.
With celebrated four-year players such as Poppens, Prins and Zimmerman helping to close the books on a regular season that won’t signal the end just yet.
“As a group, they’ll be remembered in a very special way and i think they’ve earned that,” Fennelly said.
Their resume, in part:
Four NCAA Tournaments — counting a bid that’s certain to come later this month.
A combined 2,698 points, with Poppens scoring 1,309, Prins adding 1,073 and Zimmerman chipping in 316.
Eighty-five wins so far, including 60 at Hilton Coliseum.
“Each one of us leaves a mark behind,” Poppens said. “And that helps make Iowa State the great place that it is.”
Nothing leaves a legacy like winning.
Speeches aside, that’s what matters most today — because of the last meeting with Oklahoma State, the latest loss to TCU and the in-tact chance to earn the second seed in this weekend’s conference tournament.“it should be a motivating factor for us, just to want to go out there and want to, for me, especially, make my last time I get to play at Hilton a good memory,” Poppens said.