Two months ago, Iowa State wasn’t sure it would make the NCAA tournament following a rough stretch. Around the same time, Cyclones leading scorer Lyndsay Medders wasn’t sure she’d be able to play again.
Neither negative scenario came to pass, and Medders and the sixth-seeded Cyclones open play against 11th seed Washington on Saturday in Minneapolis after both player and team recovered.
Iowa State (25-8) won 13 of its first 14 games, but dropped six of its next 10 between Jan. 6-Feb. 10. The Cyclones’ season seemed to be in even greater danger of falling apart when Medders, Iowa State’s leading scorer at 12.8 points per game, suffered a concussion during a shootaround Jan. 31.
After Medders missed two of the next three games, coach Bill Fennelly talked to his star about sitting out the rest of the season.
“I just felt that for what she’s done for our school and what she’s done for me personally, I just was not going to put her at risk,” Fennelly said. “We were going to make the best decision not just for her this year, but for her career.”
Medders wasn’t interested in doing that, and after she returned to the lineup Feb. 14, the Cyclones ran off eight straight wins before losing last Saturday to Oklahoma in the Big 12 championship game.
Medders averaged 13.4 points and 6.2 assists in those nine contests, helping lead Iowa State to its eighth NCAA tournament appearance.
“When I came back from my concussion, I’ve been as physically, emotionally and mentally driven as ever to win ballgames and put my team in the situation we’re in now,” Medders said. “My mindset changed a lot.
“A lot of that was because I had the game taken away from me. It’s one thing to play on a broken foot and get a shot. It’s another thing to be put in the situation I was in with my head.”
Medders is shooting just 35.5 percent from the field on the season, below the team average of 39.8 percent. The Cyclones were sixth in the Big 12 in field-goal percentage.
This is the second straight NCAA tournament appearance for Washington (18-12), third in five years and 16th overall. The Huskies had won five of six games heading into the Pac-10 tournament, but lost 81-77 to Southern California in the first round.
“We’re just thrilled, we’re excited,” coach June Daugherty said in a statement after Washington’s selection to the tournament Monday. “We knew that we were in it after the tremendous preseason we played and all we did in the Pac-10. Our seniors are being rewarded with another opportunity to play for a national championship in the NCAAs.”
The Huskies are led by Cameo Hicks, who averages 17.1 points per game, and Andrea Plouffe at 10.0 per contest. Washington’s strength on offense, though, is in its balance. Only two players are averaging double figures in scoring, but the Huskies were second in the Pac-10 at 71.8 points per game.
Washington has struggled defensively, however, allowing 68.8 points a contest—second-worst in the Pac-10.
Washington and Iowa State have met twice, with the Huskies winning matchups in 2002 and ’03.
Saturday’s winner will face third-seeded Georgia or No. 14 Belmont in the second round Monday.