Hawkeyes open Big Ten season with a 67-58 win

Dec. 28, 2007

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IOWA CITY — The first play provided a spark. The second was a defensive dagger.

Two huge second-half plays by University of Iowa senior Krista VandeVenter helped the Hawkeyes to a conference-opening 67-58 victory over Penn State on Friday night inside Carver-Hawkeye Arena. Iowa improved to 8-4 overall, 1-0 in the Big Ten; the Lady Lions are 9-4, 0-1.

With 17-minutes, 25-seconds left and the shot clock ticking toward zero, VandeVenter calmly lofted a 25-footer that found nothing but net and gave the Hawkeyes a 41-27 lead. Then, with 4:45 remaining and the Lady Lions within eight points (55-47), Penn State’s Brianne O’Rourke raced up court with an apparent fast break, but VandeVenter held her ground defensively and drew a charging foul.

“It is definitely a great start for us in the Big Ten, especially with it being a win at home,” VandeVenter said. “We want to establish a home-court advantage a little bit more this year, so I think this is good for us and I think it’ll be good for us in the rest of the season.”

Although VandeVenter’s heroics came at opportune moments, this was far from a one-player performance by the Hawkeyes. Kristi Smith poured in a game-high 19 points and Johanna Solverson added 16. Smith (3 of 7) and Solverson (2 of 7) combined to make 5 of 14 from three-point range, hand out seven assists and swipe six steals. And VandeVenter? She chipped in with eight points, 12 rebounds and three steals. JoAnn Hamlin also added eight points for Iowa.

The Hawkeye defense played well, holdikng Penn State to 33.3-percent shooting from the field (18 of 54).

“Penn State is a good basketball team and they’ve had some real quality wins,” UI head coach Lisa Bluder said. “I thought our defense in the first half was very, very good. Our rebounding in the second half was also really good. It’s nice to win a game and have several people involved and I thought our defense did a nice job of holding them to 58 points.”

The Hawkeyes grabbed 23 rebounds in the seocnd half — 11 on the offensive end. For the game Iowa shot 36.9 percent from the field (24 of 65).

The win was Iowa’s second consecutive in the series with the Lady Lions. Penn State leads the all-time series 19-13, but the Hawkeyes now hold a 10-5 margin in Iowa City.

Iowa forced 17 first-half turnovers and sprinted to a 34-24 halftime advantage. VandeVenter and Solverson benefitted most from the Lady Lion miscues, swiped three steals apiece. Smith added two steals.

Leading the charge offensively for the Hawkeyes were Solverson and Smith. Solverson tallied 12 points — with a pair of three-pointers — five rebounds and three assists. Smith chipped in with nine points and two assists. She made 1 of 2 from behind the arc.

Iowa attempted 12 more field goals than Penn State during the first 20 minutes (39 to 27) and had a 10-point lead despite being out-rebounded 26-19. But the most telling statistic in the early going was in the turnover category, where the Hawkeyes were plus-11.

“I just went out there and played hard,” Smith said. “I was definitely motivated. I want to do whatever I can do to help my team win.”

Iowa plays its next two games on the road: Sunday at Michigan and next Thursday at Minnesota. The Hawkeyes’ next home game is Sunday, Jan. 6, against nationally ranked Ohio State. That game tips shortly after 3 p.m. in Carver.

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