By Rob Gray
AMES — There were four technical fouls.
A stirring comeback.
The nerve-wracking speech every Iowa State senior is required to craft and deliver — win or lose — after the game.
“I remember just the afterwards part of it, when everybody was excited, jumping on everybody,” current Cyclone senior Hallie Christofferson said of the memorable 2013 senior night in which her team battled back to beat Oklahoma State 73-70 at Hilton Coliseum.
Today at 7 p.m., ISU has a chance to top it, with No. 9 Baylor in town.
And Christofferson will have a hard-time topping her 21-point performance against the Cowgirls last season, but is firmly convinced the Cyclone team that lost 89-51 at Baylor 13 days ago won’t show up, either.
“I think we just played kind of scared and let them take us out of our own game,” Christofferson said of the blowout loss. “We didn’t play like we’re capable of and I think we’ve shown that recently and hope to keep the momentum going.”
ISU (20-8, 9-8) has all but formally locked up its eighth straight NCAA Tournament bid by winning four of its past five games — including an 86-69 shellacking of Oklahoma State on the road.
So whether there’s a statement made against the Bears (25-4, 15-2) or not, the Cyclones’ “we’re back” message will continue to ring loud and clear.
“I think coming out from the beginning like we have been, just continuing that energy and that motivation and just battling to the end has really helped us get these last few wins,” said ISU freshman Jadda Buckley.
This senior night comes with an asterisk, as it’s extremely unlikely to be the last game at Hilton for Christofferson and reserves Elly Arganbright and Ashley Hagedorn.
The Cyclones will host first- and second-round NCAA Tournament games after next week’s Big 12 tournament wraps up.
Fennelly’s not about to take an NCAA berth for granted, but conceded the chance to play another home game or two could ease Tuesday’s tension for his three seniors.
“Usually senior nights are miserable; they can’t breathe,” he said. “I’ve had kids crying during the warmups. It’s just like, ‘Can we go on?’ … So when they walk off the court (tonight), I think there’ll be a little bit of, ‘OK, I get to come back here, maybe.’”
Not before the speeches are made, though.“You do put a lot into it,” Christofferson said. “It’s memorable.”