Feb. 18, 2007
IOWA CITY — Wins. They haven’t come easy for the Iowa Hawkeyes this Big Ten Conference season and Sunday was no different. Bluder’s Bunch scratched and clawed and hustled its way to a very satsifying 79-72 victory over Penn State inside Carver-Hawkeye Arena.
The victory, sparked by the inspiring play of reserve post player Nicole VanderPol, was only the second — and second in a row — registered at home by Bluder’s squad in league play during the 2007 season. It pushed Iowa’s overall record to 13-14 and its Big Ten mark to 5-9. Penn State dropped to 13-14 overall and 6-8 in league play.
VanderPol scored a career-high 15 points on 6-of-8 shooting from the field and three free throws. She also grabbed three rebounds and was credited two steals. She was one of four Hawkeyes to score in double-figures: Kristi Smith had 21 and Wendy Ausdemore and Lindsey Nyenhuis 13 each. Nyenhuis’ total was also a career-high.
Penn State’s Tyra Grant led all scorers with 33 points. The guard sank just nine of 24 field goal attempts and only three of 10 three-point tries. She was brilliant from the charity stripe, however, hitting 12 of 14 attempts.
“It feels good to go out there and not just get the win but to execute well, get high percentage shots and to play together,” said Bluder. “It was a real team effort on both the offensive side of the ball, as well as the defensive side of things.
The teams traded leads early in the second half. Iowa took the lead for keeps when Smith sank a three-pointer with 5:45 left to play to give the Hawkeyes a 66-65 advantage. The lead reached 72-67 when Wendy Ausdemore sank a jumper at the 3:50 mark.
Smith sank another layup and then a free throw to put the game officially out of reach at 75-67 with 2:57.
Iowa won this game with success from behind the arc. The Hawkeyes made seven of eight three-point tries; Nyenhuis was perfect on all four of her attempts. Iowa shot 53 percent for the game while holding Penn State to just 43 percent and only five-of-14 shooting from three-point land.
Iowa’s defense was also credited with creating 25 Penn State turnovers and collected 11 steals.
Iowa trailed by as many as eight during the first half, but three straight three-point buckets by Nyenhuis sparked a 14-5 run by the Hawkeyes that trimmed Penn State’s lead to 32-31 with almost seven minutes left to play.
A pair of buckets by VanderPol, one of a nice assist from Skouby and the other the end-result of a equally nifty pass from Smith, gave Iowa a 38-36 lead with 55 seconds left on the clock. The teams traded buckets before Smith drove the length of the court for a lay-up as time expired.
The game marked the return to the court of Iowa’s Megan Skouby. The Big Ten’s newcomer of the year had been sidelined for three games with broken bones in her left hand. Skouby did not start, but she came off the bench early in the first half to score seven points and grab two rebounds in 16 minutes of action.
Iowa plays at Purdue on Thursday before closing its 2006-07 regular season against Wisconsin next Sunday.