Jan. 6, 2005
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IOWA CITY, IA — Unranked Penn State dealt a fatal blow to No. 18 Iowa’s undefeated season with a 77-71 victory inside Carver-Hawkeye Arena Thursday night.
In just two months, the Hawkeyes (13-1, 2-1) built their best start in 17 years and the second-best start ever. They were the only undefeated women’s basketball team in the country too, but just for a day.
“A loss is a loss no matter when,” Iowa Coach Lisa Bluder said. “You never want to see a loss come. To me it hurts because it’s a loss, not because we were the last ones standing in the country.”
Sparked by an 11-1 run to start the second half and hot perimeter shooting, the Lady Lions (7-6, 2-0) got out to as much as a 20-point lead. Guard Jess Strom got two of her five 3-pointers in the stretch.
“I wasn’t shooting very well the last few games,” Strom said, “but I practiced a lot and went on the shooting machine, and it paid off.”
Penn State had an eight-point advantage at halftime.
“Their 3-point shooting really killed us tonight,” Bluder said. “We came out and gave up those three baskets right away, and it went from eight to 16 in two minutes in the beginning of the second half. I thought the beginning the second half was a real crucial part of the game.”
Bluder turned to her bench quickly in the period. She put in the trio of Jenee Graham, Tiffany Reedy and Morgan Kasperek, who combined for 20 points in a 28-7 run and brought the Hawkeyes to within two points with just less than four minutes to go in the game.
Graham and Kasperek both had career nights in with 11 apiece, and Graham also had a career-high seven rebounds.
“Those players fought very hard and did a nice job,” said Bluder, whose bench scored 30 points to PSU’s 5. “They showed a lot of fight – being down 20 points and brining it back to two. I’m really proud of them. I think that was an incredible effort. It would have been very easy for them to give up at that point.”
Iowa had a rough time shooting from the start, going 9-of-24 in the first 20 minutes.
“With our guards, even when we penetrated, we were altering our shot for some reason, and not just shooting our normal shot,” Bluder said. “We’ll have to watch the film and find out why.”
Johanna Solverson, who scored a team-high 18 points including the first eight of the game, said the Hawkeyes’ offense couldn’t get set early on.
“We were adjusting our shots to their defense and we weren’t playing our game,” she said. “We weren’t setting up our offense and taking time. Once we started doing that, we let our defense translate into offense which helped out a lot.”
Penn State’s three-pronged attack of Jess Strom, Tanisha Wright and Jennifer Harris did Iowa in. Strom had a game-high 29 points and Wright and Harris put in 18 apiece. It was the Lady Lions’ third win against a top 25 program this year.
“When you have three players on the perimeter who are that potent, it’s really hard to defend them,” Bluder said. “Jess Strom was tremendous tonight. She was scoring just about every different way you could imagine. They buried us from 3-point range. Their usual percent is 31 percent and they shot 48 percent tonight.”
“We were adjusting our shots to their defense and we weren’t playing our game. We weren’t setting up our offense and taking time. Once we started doing that, we let our defense translate into offense which helped out a lot.”
Penn State had lost its last three road games, and it was just 6-6 coming into Thursday’s game – an ignoble record for the defending Big Ten Champion.
“We were very fortunate to come out with the win,” Penn State coach Rene Portland said. “(Iowa) is a good team, and you can’t count these guys out. We’re thrilled because we worked really hard for it.
“We were thrilled because we worked real hard for (the win),” Portland added. “We are a .500 ball club, and we have to be better than a .500 record to wear the Penn State jersey.”
Now, Iowa has to snap out of the momentary funk to take on two road games against top ten programs – No. 6 Michigan State and No. 9 Ohio State.
“This is just one loss, and in the Big Ten season there are going to be a lot of people with a lot of losses,” Bluder said. “I don’t think we can get too caught with this one, but you can’t get caught up with it going into Michigan State.
“If you’re thinking about anything but winning at Michigan State it’s going to be a tough day for you. We have to take care of our mistakes here and get ready to play Michigan State.”
Barry Pump, hawkeyesports.com