Evan Unrau was the first thing Iowa State coach Bill Fennelly wanted to talk about.
After the Tigers’ 63-58 win Saturday at Hearnes Center, Fennelly started his postgame interview with a statement about Missouri’s star forward.
“Evan Unrau is a very special kid,” Fennelly said. “It’s been an honor to coach against her, and I had the privilege to coach her in Korea.
“Those are the kind of people who make you want to coach for a living. I’m glad she is done; I’ll write her the best recommendation she’ll ever get.”
Fennelly, who coached Unrau at the 2003 World University Games in Daegu, South Korea, in August, echoed a sentiment many coaches in the Big 12 Conference have expressed this season.
Unrau, a senior, ended her last regular-season home game with a relatively quiet performance.
Six days after scoring a career-high 40 points against Kansas State, Unrau struggled with her shot, making 1-of-7 shots and grabbing five rebounds. In typical Unrau fashion, she found a way to get her points, making a career-high 12-of-12 free throws.
Unrau made eight free throws in the final 3:49 to help give the Tigers the last regular-season win in Hearnes Center.
“Obviously, free throws won the game today,” Missouri coach Cindy Stein said. “We don’t hit our free throws, they are back into the thick of things; they put a lot of pressure on you.
“Making your free throws takes the pressure off of you and puts the pressure on them, and that’s the way every head coach would prefer it.”
Missouri made 17-of-19 free throws in the second half to outscore the Cyclones 21-5 at the line.
Senior forward Stretch James made 5-of-5 free throws and led the Tigers in scoring, with 21. Sophomore guard LaToya Bond made 3-of-4 free throws in the final minute to keep the game out of reach of the Cyclones.
“Our seniors have been an incredible group,” Stein said. “I feel like I’ve gone through growing pains with all of them in different ways.
“You are just so proud of them that you want (the win) for them. I think that was part of our problem today, is that we wanted it so badly.”
Missouri was in need of a win at home. The Tigers finished 7-7 at home and 2-6 in Big 12 play. Missouri lost five games at home by five or fewer points, including three to ranked opponents.