Smith's Late Heroics Help Iowa Win on the Road, 73-65

Feb. 10, 2008

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by Sean Neugent

STATE COLLEGE, Pa. — It wasn’t easy for the University of Iowa women’s basketball team to keep its winning streak alive, but the Hawkeyes pulled away from Penn State late for their eighth consecutive victory Sunday afternoon, 73-65, in the Bryce Jordan Center.

With the victory Iowa remains in first place in the Big Ten Conference at 17-7 overall and 10-3 in league action. Penn State falls to 13-11, 4-8.

The win gave UI head coach Lisa Bluder 500 for her career.

“It feels good to get career win No. 500, but I’m happier about winning eight in a row and staying on top of the Big Ten standings,” Bluder said. “I’m proud of how we kept our composure down the stretch. We made big baskete and played good defense.”

Iowa senior forward Johanna Solverson continued to be on fire as she has been in the past few games. She drained two jumpers before opening it up with a three as she scored Iowa’s first seven points and the Hawkeyes led 7-1 with 17:41 remaining in the first half.

“It’s great to win here,” Solverson said. “I’m glad to be on the team that got Coach Bluder her 500th career win.”

The run continued as the Hawkeyes shot perfectly in the first few minutes when junior guard Kristi Smith followed Solverson’s three with one of her own and senior forward Krista VandeVenter added a jumper for a quick 12-2 start. Senior center Stacy Schlapkohl hit a layup for 14-4 lead before junior forward Wendy Ausdemore missed the Hawkeyes first shot with 14:42 left.

Iowa continued its torrid run as it jumped out to a 22-8 lead. The Lady Lions ended the Hawkeyes’ spurt with two free throws from Tyra Grant and fast-break layups from Grant and Mashea Williams as they continued to trail 24-14 with 7:41 remaining in the half.

Penn State continued to heat up and inch closer as Iowa started to slow down offensively. The lead was cut to single digits as Grant had two more free throws and Brianne O’Rourke hit a jumper to trail 28-20 with 4:35 left to go. They kept on charging to get within four points of Iowa as O’Rourke hit two from the perimeter as Iowa led 30-26.

Ausdemore hit a layup after being fouled and hit the following free throw to take a 33-28 lead going into the locker room.

Solverson led all scorers with 11 points and added five rebounds in the first half. Iowa shot 14 of 28 (50 percent) from the floor, 2 of 7 (29 percent) from long range, and a perfect 3 of 3 from the charity stripe. Penn State was 8 of 26 (31 percent), 2 of 6 (33 percent) and 10 of 13 (77 percent) from the free throw line that allowed them to stay in the game. The Lady Lions also scored 10 points of nine Iowa turnovers.

Penn State wasted no time getting within two of Iowa as the second half began. Solverson ran into foul trouble early as she picked up her third foul with 18:15 left in the game and her fourth with 12:30 left. Penn State’s Julia Trogele made an early exit as she fouled out with 9:09 remaining. Smith helped the Hawkeyes regain ground as she hit a layup while fouled and hit the latter free throw to give Iowa a 44-37 advantage.

The pace of the second half was much slower than the first as Penn State stayed within five points and both teams struggled to shoot the ball or get any momentum going. Several fouls were called as both teams entered the one and one bonus early.

Schlapkohl hit two free throws to give Iowa a seven point lead at 52-45 with 9:03 to go. Solverson remained on the bench but other Hawkeyes stepped up as Ausdemore shot from downtown, assisted from senior forward Jenee Graham to give the Hawkeyes their biggest lead of the half at 55-45.

The Lady Lions immediately came right back as Williams and Grant each scored before Kamela Gissendanner hit two free throws and a layup to trail 58-57. There was confusion between the referees, who thought Solverson picked up her fifth foul, but it went on sophomore center JoAnn Hamlin who picked up her fourth. It was a good thing for the Hawkeyes on the play because after that Solverson hit a big three before ultimately fouling out right after. O’Rourke hit the layup as Solverson picked up the foul and made it a one point game with the free throw.

Nervousness was not an issue as the Hawkeyes have been in this situation several times already this season. As first-place teams so often do, Iowa didn’t hesitate to open the game up as Smith stepped up to score the next eight of 10 points to win 73-65.

“Johanna put us on her back early in the contest,” Bluder said. “Kristi and Johanna both made huge jump shots when Penn State got close.”

Smith’s late heroics helped her to 20 points as Penn State’s Gissendanner matched her for high-scoring honors. Solverson had 16 and Ausdemore added 10 for Iowa. Grant put up 17 points for the Lady Lions and O’Rourke had 15.

Iowa shot the ball well as they were 25 of 48 (52 percent) from the field, 4 of 11 (36 percent) from behind the arc and an outstanding 19 of 20 (95 percent) from the free throw line. Penn State was 18 of 50 (36 percent), 4 of 14 (29 percent) and 25 of 28 (89 percent).

Iowa will travel to West Lafayette, Ind., next Thursday at 6:05 p.m., for a showdown against Purdue. The Boilermakers are also currently tied for first place in the Big Ten.

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