Iowa's Rally Falls Short

March 18, 2006

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DENVER, Colo. – It rained three’s Sunday on the University of Iowa women’s basketball team. Ten of them.

The Brigham Young Cougars used 10 three-point baskets to power themselves past a never-say-die Hawkeye squad to win a first round game of the 2006 NCAA Division I Women’s Basketball Tournament, 67-62, in the Pepsi Center.

The loss ends the season for Lisa Bluder’s over-achieving group, a collection of talent that was paced again by freshman center Megan Skouby and senior guard Crystal Smith. Skouby scored a game-high 19 points and grabbed six rebounds before fouling out with 1:44 to play and Iowa trailing by six at 60-54.

Smith, playing in what turned out to be her final game in an Iowa uniform, scored 17 points, grabbed four rebounds and dished out three assists.

BYU was paced by guard Ambrosia Anderson. The Cougars’ leading scorer had 19 points. She was one of four BYU players to sink two three-point baskets.

“I’m proud of my team. We fought all year and today. We proved that we belonged here but I can’t believe it’s over. The seniors have been so outstanding.”
Lisa Bluder

Oh, those three point baskets.

Iowa, the Big Ten Conference’s most productive offense, made just one of ’em in six tries. Conversely, the Hawkeyes entered the game as the Big Ten’s top defender of the three-point shot.

Iowa’s offense, sleepy for the first half, came alive in the second half and, specifically, right after BYU had stretched its halftime margin of 30-25 to 54-38 when the Cougars’ Anderson dropped a short baseline jumper with 8:33 to play.

Krista VandeVenter had a pair of buckets. Abby Emmert dropped a jumper. Smith made a lay-up. And Skouby tossed in six points to pull Iowa to within seven, 60-53.

It got better, too, for Bluder’s Bunch. With both of Brigham Young’s posts – Lauren Riley and Dani Kubik – out of the game with five fouls, Iowa attacked and when Smith made a pair of free throws with 40 seconds left to play to get it to a one-possession game at 65-62, momentum was clearly in the Hawkeyes’ favor.

But it wasn’t meant to be.

Smith’s three-point attempt to tie the game with 24 seconds to play rattled off the front of the rim. The teams then traded fouls and missed foul shots before Anderson claimed victory for BYU with a pair from the charity stripe with 5.5 seconds to play.

Statistically, the game was as close as it was on the scoreboard – except for that three-point line. Iowa shot 43 percent from the field, BYU also checked in at 43 percent. Bluder’s squad made eight more free throws. The Cougars outrebounded the Hawkeyes 38-33. BYU committed 15 turnovers, Iowa only 10.

“Our kids fought back. I’m not sure what the deficit was, but we fought back to give our selves an opportunity,” said Bluder, whose team finishes the 2005-6 season with 17 wins despite seeing five players get sidelined with knee injuries.

“I’m so very proud of my team. We fought all year and again today,” Iowa’s six-year head coach said. “We proved that we belonged here but I can’t believe it’s over. The seniors have been so outstanding.”

VandeVenter added 10 points and a team-high seven rebounds for the Hawkeyes. Emmert and Wendy Ausdemore added five point each.

Bluder gave significant credit to Iowa substitute Jenee Graham for slowing down BYU’s Anderson, the co-player of the year in the Mountain West Conference.

Lisa Bluder said it will be hard to lose the seniors on this year’s squad. “They’ve been outsanding,” the Hawkeyes’ head coach said.

“Jenee was very, very effective for us. She made Anderson work for her points. She made other players step up for them,” said Bluder.

Specifically, it was BYU’s Melinda Johnsen with nine points, Vanessa Hutson with eight and Mallary Gillespie with seven who were the difference-makers for the nationally ranked Cougars.

The opening half was more like a heavyweight boxing match than a basketball game with the participants sparring and probing and, perhaps, letting the excitement of post-season competition get in the way of execution.

The first basket wasn’t scored until 16:39 when Iowa’s Crystal Smith dropped a layup. The two teams then traded the lead lead seven times, the seventh coming at 15-14 when BYU’s Mallorie Gillespie dropped a jumper from the right baseline.

The Cougars then stretched the lead to 22-16 when Lauren Riley sank the second of two layups. BYU hit its highwater mark at 23-16 seconds later when Anderson made the second of two free throws.

Crystal Smith then took matters into her own hands. She followed basket by Skouby with a steal and a layup, a sequence which pulled the Hawkeyes to within three, 23-20, with 2:47 left to play. Smith with pull Iowa to within three two more times in the final 80 seconds, the first on a pair of free throws, the second on a layup off a BYU turnover.

BYU carried a five-point lead into the intermission thanks to a three-point basket by Anderson.

The Hawkeyes and their fans suffered a scare in the final second of the stanza when Skouby was fouled hard by the Cougars’ Riley – her third. Iowa’s talented post player made one of two free throws after regaining herself.

Click HERE to listen to the post-game press conference.

Iowa shot a respectable 40 percent from the field given the fact that one of BYU’s strengths all season has been its defense. The Hawkeyes didn’t make a three-point bucket BYU made three of 10 tries behind the arc.