- The Washington Times - Saturday, March 28, 2009

BERKELEY, CALIF. (AP) - Alison Lacey capped a furious finish for Iowa State that sent the Cyclones into the regional finals for just the second time in school history.

Lacey hit a 3-pointer from the top of the key with 23 seconds remaining and fourth-seeded Iowa State scored the final eight points in a 69-68 victory over ninth-seeded Michigan State on Saturday night.

With a comeback for the ages, this year’s Cyclones squad joins the 1999 version that was honored earlier this year as the only ones to go this far in the women’s tournament.

It appeared as if the run was destined to end when Michigan State went ahead 68-61 on Aisha Jefferson’s jumper with 1:26 left that gave the Spartans a 68-61 lead.

Nicky Wieben started the comeback with her only basket of the game on a putback and the Cyclones (27-8) turned up the defensive pressure. A steal by Kelsey Bolte in the backcourt led to Heather Ezell’s banked-in 3-pointer that cut the lead to 68-66 with a minute to go.

Lykendra Johnson then turned it over in the backcourt again for Michigan State (22-11), setting up Lacey’s heroics. Iowa State tried to get the ball inside but Allyssa DeHaan blocked Bolte from in close and the loose ball made it out to Lacey, who drained the 3-pointer to give her 29 points and the Cyclones the lead.

The Iowa State players poured off the bench to mob Lacey at midcourt during a timeout, but the win was far from secure.

Kalisha Keane missed a 3-pointer for the Spartans, who kept possession after a jump ball on the rebound. Following a timeout, Jefferson and Johnson missed shots from in close to give the Cyclones the win.

Iowa State’s players rushed out to center court once again to celebrate, while many of the Spartans fell to the ground in despair. DeHaan scored 24 points to lead Michigan State, but didn’t get a touch on the last possession and walked off the court with tears in her eyes.

Iowa State advanced to face the winner of the game between third-seeded Ohio State (29-5) and second-seeded Stanford (31-4) for a trip to the Final Four.

Both teams faced some doubts about their credentials despite making it to the regional semifinals. Iowa State benefited from two-time defending champion Tennessee’s loss to 12th-seeded Ball State in the first round. There will still be some skeptics because Michigan State cleared top-seeded Duke out of the bracket with a second-round win on its homecourt.

The Spartans wanted to prove they could win away from the Breslin Center as well, and appeared to do so with strong play in the second half. The game was tied going into the final 6 minutes before DeHaan gave the Spartans a 62-60 lead with a hook shot in the lane.

Another hook by DeHaan put the Spartans up by three points and then Mia Johnson fed Lykendra Johnson with a perfect pass underneath for a layup that made it 66-61 with 3:14 to go.

Jefferson’s basket appeared to seal it for the Spartans before the comeback.

Iowa State missed its first six shots of the game, extending the run of misses against Michigan State’s defense to 23 straight. The Spartans forced top-seeded Duke to miss its final 17 shots in a 63-49 loss in the second round Tuesday.

But the Cyclones overcame an early nine-point deficit by going on a 15-6 run behind 10 points from Lacey and took a 38-36 halftime lead.

Amanda Nisleit scored 17 points and Ezell added 14 for Iowa State.

Mia Johnson had 13 and Jefferson scored 10 for the Spartans.

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