I was a member of a team took second place in the Cy's House of Trivia last spring, and we were rewarded with several tickets to today's women's basketball game against Oklahoma State University. Included in the package was VIP treatment in the hospitality room of Hilton Coliseum. The prize was first class in every aspect. I invited a work colleague of mine who coaches a third grade girl's basketball team, and he brought three impressionable young girls with him. What they saw today was a lesson learned that everyone can take back to their respective lives, and apply appropriately.
Andrea Riley of Oklahoma State is arguably one of the best point guards in the NCAA. She has more quickness and athletic ability than most people can even comprehend. ISU was up by three with less than two minutes left, and OSU was going to let her be the "go to" person for the rest of the game. And why not? She had already scored 30 points and was virtually unstoppable one-on-one. Just set a screen and let her create a shot. What I completely overestimated was her heart and desire. It's easy to do when you regularly attend ISU games and just naturally expect to see it. Cyclone guard Heather Ezell brought the ball up the court and was being guarded by Riley. Heather blew by her. After expecting to be the beneficiary of an offensive foul, Andrea quit on the play, began complaining to the nearest official, and forced a teammate to commit an intentional foul. This was immediately followed up by a technical foul by their coach, Kurt Budke. Four made free throws later, ISU inbounded the ball and was up by 9 points. The Cyclones went on to win by a score of 53 - 65.
What is so significant about the last two minutes of the game? I think that there are two things of relevance to take away. First, no matter how much talent you have, it makes no difference without heart. Heart is what counts during times of adversity. Heather Ezell doesn't have half as much raw talent as Andrea Riley, but she has more than enough competitive drive and desire to make up for the deficit. Contrary to popular belief, character isn't built in difficult times, it's revealed. I would take Heather over Andrea on the court, in the office, on the battlefield, and anywhere else you have a situation that would require character in order to prevail. Second, ISU coach Bill Fennelly would never let a player quit and stay on the floor. If you give less than one hundred percent on the floor of Hilton Coliseum, you will not only lose any opportunity to play, it will more than likely cost you your jersey. In my opinion, that has been the single most important ingredient for success during the Bill Fennelly's tenure as head coach at ISU.
So back to my colleague and his girls. They had been beaten pretty badly by another girl's basketball team earlier in the day, and I can only guess that their spirits were low. I am so grateful for the gutty performance by the Cyclones today not only for my enjoyment, but for those girls as well. In addition to the impression from the first class treatment by the ISU Athletic Department staff in the hospitality room, I hope that they took away from this game what it really means to be a competitor. We don't know how lucky we are to have a quality NCAA women's basketball program here in Ames. And if you don't believe me, see the Ames Tribune for a testimonial from two members of the Kansas State faithful: