Jan. 2, 2004
IOWA CITY, IA. —Iowa snapped a two-game losing streak inside Carver-Hawkeye Arena Friday with a convincing 91-73 victory over Illinois in the first Big Ten Conference game of the season.
“We weren’t feeling the best, but we thought this is a new year and an entirely different season,” said junior center Jamie Cavey, who scored a team-high and career-best tying 26 points. “It’s our Big Ten season, and we went into it with an entirely different attitude.
“We’re finally starting to show what we can actually do.”
For Head Coach Lisa Bluder, the confidence boosting win was exactly what she had been waiting to see.
“We have played better in practice than we have on the floor,” she said. “This is one game, but at the same time I’m really pleased to see them play 40 minutes at what they’re capable of doing because we truly haven’t done that.”
“We have played better in practice than we have on the floor. This is one game, but at the same time I’m really pleased to see them play 40 minutes at what they’re capable of doing because we truly haven’t done that.”
Head Coach Lisa Bluder
Playing a continuous 40-minute game was exactly what Illinois coach Theresa Grentz says her team hasn’t yet been able to achieve.
“I don’t think we were as intense,” said the coach, whose team drops to 5-6 overall. “This group is a great group, but they need to learn how to play 40 minutes. When that happens, Illinois will be where they need to be.
“Obviously, it was a disappointing performance, but you have to give credit to Iowa. They played very well and executed what they needed to do.”
Starting guard Kristi Faulkner, who has been troubled recently from the field, teamed with sophomore guard Crystal Smith off the bench to light up the first half.
Faulkner went 7-of-12 for 15 points while Smith hit 3-of-3 for eight in the opening period, underlining a 10-point drive midway through, sparked by a tying 3-pointer by Tiffany Reedy at just over eight minutes.
The 5-foot-6 Smith also managed to get an unlikely block off of 6-foot-2 Cindy Dallas.
“I thought Crystal really provided a spark for us,” said Bluder, whose bench contributed 17 points to just five from the Illini’s. “And wasn’t that block beautiful? It was a lot of fun. I think it fired her up a bit.”
But even more impressively, Smith and Faulkner teamed up with a steal off of Janelle Hughes and a runaway lay-up with just less than three minutes remaining in the half to go 12-up.
“I think everybody really contributed, and I think that was one of the biggest parts,” said Faulkner. “Almost everyone on the team stepped up and did something really positive.”
Cavey made another lay-up to push the Hawkeyes to 14-up, the biggest lead of the half, right after to cap off a 6-point run.
But Angelina Williams added two jumpers to finish the half, going 5-of-9 for 10 points. Aminata Yanni went 4-of-7 for 11 points to lead the Illini as well.
Williams had a career-high 25 points for the game, going 12-of-20, while Yanni went 4-of-12 for 13 points. Tiffanie Guthrie also put in 13 points.
The Hawks, though, closed the first half with a 10-point advantage, 48-38.
The victory was a special one for the senior, Faulkner, an Illinois native, after last season’s sweep of the Hawkeyes by the Illini.
“We talked a lot, and we came together as a team and knew what we had to do. We came out with a lot of fire, and we really had fun tonight.”
Iowa guard and Illinois-native Kristi Faulkner
“We talked a lot, and we came together as a team and knew what we had to do,” she said. “We came out with a lot of fire, and we really had fun tonight.”
Iowa (7-5, 1-0) shot 55.2 percent from the field and 70.6 percent from the line, in an intense game also sparked by several 3-point plays. The Hawkeyes converted five shots into 3- or 4-point plays off of fouls.
“I thought those 3-point plays were huge,” said Bluder. “We, in the past, maybe took the foul but not converted that shot. We converted 3-point plays very well. They took the contact, made the basket, drew the foul and made the free throw all at the same time. I thought that was a really big part.”
According to senior co-captain Jennie Lillis, a forward, Iowa was finally able to bring the chemistry back to the team, while capitalizing on defensive stops and turnovers.
The Hawkeyes made 23 points off 18 Illini turnovers and gave Illinois just 32 points in the paint compared to 48 by Iowa.
“We capitalized on that, and we haven’t been doing that,” said Lillis, who scored 18 points and had seven rebounds. “We had fire today. We wanted this game. The other games we showed up, but we didn’t play to our abilities.”
Barry Pump, hawkeyesports.com