Since he became coach in 1995, Bill Fennelly has led the Iowa State women’s basketball team to 16 NCAA tournament appearances. While the men’s program faced its ups and downs over the same 20-year period (sorry, I know we’re all trying to forget 2008), Bill Fennelly made Iowa State relevant on the national scene and a consistent contender for Big 12 titles.
NCAA tourney appearances under Fennelly are basically as consistent as Christmas. You know both are coming, so just put ‘em on the calendar now. Both events bring joy to small children and relief to adults from long Iowa winters. Come to think of it, some women’s tickets would probably make a good Christmas gift…
In 20 years with the Cyclones, Bill Fennelly has won 434 games. Picking the top 1% of those wins is no easy task, but it’s also not easy to make two Elite Eight appearances, win a couple conference championships, or make sure your assistant coach son doesn’t stage a coup and overtake your grip on power.
5. Iowa State 65, Texas 55
March 12, 2000
The Iowa State women capped off one of the best weekends in Cyclone basketball history (Marcus Fizer and Jamaal Tinsley helped Iowa State win its first Big 12 men’s tourney title) down in Kansas City. With the defeat of the Longhorns, Iowa State won its first women’s Big 12 Tournament championship. The tournament victory, paired with a regular season Big 12 championship, showed Iowa State was on the national scene to stay; the Elite Eight appearance the previous year was no fluke.
4. Iowa State 64, Texas Tech 63
Jan. 14, 2004
It’s not everyday you beat the No. 1 team in the country. With just 0.2 seconds left on the clock, Iowa State guard Anne O’Neil sank a shot that would give the Red Raiders their first loss of the season. More unfortunately for Texas Tech, they would quickly depart pristine Ames and return to the sorry town of Lubbock. Coach Fennelly called the win "one of the greatest games I’ve ever been a part of."
3. Iowa State 59, Texas 57
Jan. 10, 2015
I may have some form of recency bias here, since this win happened less than a year ago. But this win was the first for Iowa State against a top five team in over 10 years, and it propelled the Cyclones to yet another NCAA tournament berth. In perhaps the greatest women’s game in Hilton, Iowa State used some Hilton Magic to overcome an 18-point deficit and knock off the Longhorns. After the game, an emotional Bill Fennelly thanked former players who showed up for a 20-year celebration and acknowledged the day as one of his best memories as a coach.
2. Iowa State 69, Michigan State 68
March 28, 2009
When it’s the NCAA Tournament - and the Sweet 16, no less - the drama heightens and the wins mean so much more. Bill Fennelly often utters the phrase "survive and advance" when the calendar turns to March. Down eight points with just 83 seconds to go, Iowa State unleashed its rarely used full court press and a barrage of three pointers to sneak past the Spartans, reclaim a small bit of justice from East Lansing and Tom Izzo for transgressions back in 2000, and move to the Elite Eight for just the second time in school history.
1. Iowa State 64, Connecticut 58
March 20, 1999
The top. Without question. Watching Geno Auriemma’s face contort in confusing shapes on an old recorded VHS tape never gets old. Beating a No. 1 seed never gets old. Beating a No. 1 seed that had never lost in the Sweet 16 never gets old. Hundreds of Cyclone fans made the trek to Cincinnati to see Iowa State notch its best win in school history. Probably the only way it gets better than this is when Iowa State wins an Elite Eight game and punches its ticket to a Final Four.
Editor's Note: DShirbs is another one of our newest writing recruits and is going to bring some much-needed publicity to the women's basketball team when their season starts later this fall. Hope you enjoyed the stroll down memory lane!