Iowa State and Georgia set to meet in 2nd round
SPOKANE, Wash. – Through all of his success in 18 seasons at Iowa State, a loss in 1999 still sticks with Bill Fennelly.
That same game also sticks out to Georgia’s Andy Landers for completely different reasons – it was the last time the Lady Bulldogs reached the Final Four.
“I don’t have great recall on a lot of games,” Landers said. “But I do remember that game.”
The two long-tenured coaches will reacquaint themselves on Monday night when the fifth-seeded Cyclones (24-8) face the No. 4 seed Lady Bulldogs (26-6) in the second round of the NCAA women’s tournament. The winner will advance to the regional semifinals across town at the Spokane Arena next Saturday night.
It’ll be just the third meeting all-time between the two schools, all coming in the NCAAs. But it’s the first meeting, back in March 1999 in Cincinnati that holds meaning for both.
For Fennelly he was still in the process of building the Cyclones’ program. Iowa State made the tournament for the first time in 1997 and two years later was on the verge of the Final Four. The Cyclones knocked off top-seed Connecticut in the regional semifinals to set up that meeting against Georgia. The experience remains a moment that hasn’t left Fennelly’s memory because the Cyclones have only gotten to the regional finals one other time since losing to Georgia 89-71 back 14 years ago.
“It never fades, never, never. Think about it all the time. vThere are certain things in life they are always in your head. Some things are good and some things are bad. There are a lot of games and I think that’s what makes coaching so great and what drives people crazy is you can’t let it go,” Fennelly said on Sunday. “And I think if you do let it go, you’re in the wrong profession. You shouldn’t let it go. It shouldn’t haunt you or make you miserable, but I think it should motivate you and keep you grounded.”
For Landers, the 1999 season is also special because of the performance by Georgia star Kelly Miller that led the Lady Bulldogs to the Final Four. Miller scored 33 points as Georgia built a big early lead and coasted to the 18-point victory. The Lady Bulldogs lost in the national semifinals that season by Duke, completing a five-year run where Georgia went to the Final Four three times.
Fennelly took a relaxed approach with his team after they knocked off No. 12 seed Gonzaga 72-60 in the first round on Saturday. Instead of making sure they all stuck around to get a detailed look at their next opponent and start the scouting process, or harping on the 23 turnovers the Cyclones committed, Fennelly told his players relax and enjoy the evening. After losing in the first round the previous two seasons, Fennelly wanted his team to savor their accomplishment.
“If you don’t enjoy it, it kind of goes away,” Fennelly said. “So we try and let them enjoy the win. It was a great environment, a great evening.”