Iowa shows poise down the stretch to polish Gophers

Feb. 17, 2008

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by Sean Neugent

IOWA CITY, Iowa — The race continues for first place in the Big Ten Conference after the University of Iowa women’s basketball team showed poise to polish off Minnesota, 72-69, on Sunday inside Carver-Hawkeye Arena.

With the victory, Iowa moves to 18-8 overall and 11-4 in Big Ten action. Minnesota falls to 18-9, 9-6. Iowa has three games remaining as the Hawkeyes travel to Ohio State and Wisconsin and have a home game against Northwestern.

Iowa senior forward Johanna Solverson showed why she deserved co-Big Ten player of the week last week, after she hit the first lay-up on the opening possession before nailing a three with 16:56 to go.

The Hawkeyes shot well early to help propel them to a quick 13-8 lead when junior guard Kristi Smith and junior reserve center Megan Skouby each hit a three. The Gophers had their aim working as well and quickly knotted the score at 13-13 before Iowa junior forward nailed back to back shots from the perimeter to push the score up to 19-13 with 11:28 remaining in the half.

Minnesota’s Emily Fox hit from downtown before Brittany McCoy had a lay-up as she was fouled by Iowa senior guard Jenee Graham. The three-point show continued to entertain as Ausdemore hit another, Skouby hit a lay-up while fouled and hit the following free throw to complete the trifecta and Solverson hit a fastbreak three to lead, 30-20.

Ausdemore’s unstoppable first half led her to two more three’s and 17 points as the Hawkeyes went into the locker room with a 44-34 lead. Solverson added 10. The Hawkeyes’ marvelous three-point shooting helped overcome Minnesota’s monstrous rebounding effort. The Golden Gophers grabbed 22 boards with 12 coming on offense to Iowa’s 18 rebounds. Iowa shot 17 of 31 (55 percent) from field goal range, 9 of 13 (69 percent) from the perimeter, and 1 of 1 from the charity stripe. Minnesota was 13 of 37 (35 percent), 2 of 8 (25 percent) and 6 of 8 (75 percent) from the line.

“Wendy (Ausdemore) in the first half, her transition three’s were just beautiful,” Bluder said. “It got us a really nice lead.”

“I think just transition, get down the floor,” Ausdemore said. “My teammates found me open.”

Minnesota scored the first points of the second half on a Fox jumper to cut it to a single digit lead for Iowa. The Gophers started a full-court press on Iowa before Solverson broke it and assisted another Ausdemore three. On the latter play Solverson grabbed an offensive rebound and hit the lay-up while being fouled as she hit the latter free throw to make it a double-digit lead once again at 50-38.

Minnesota hit a jumper and a few lay-ups to trim Iowa’s lead to 50-46 with 13:03 left. Fox stole the ball and had an uncontested fastbreak lay-up to make it 52-50. Solverson again provided some comfort when she hit the trifecta after being fouled on a lay-up to give Iowa a five point lead. A few players later, Smith had a big steal as she assisted Solverson down court for the easy basket.

“I thought Johanna’s (Solverson) leadership down the stretch was outstanding,” Bluder said. “She was trying to get to the holes and draw fouls and I thought both her and Wendy did a great job.”

The Gophers continued to gnaw their way back into it as they made it a two point game when Katie Ohm hit the trey. Fox tied the game up with two free throws after being fouled by Skouby with 7:09 remaining. Minnesota’s Leslie Knight gave the Gophers a 59-57 lead on two more from the charity stripe. Ausdemore stepped up again as she grabbed her own offensive board before hitting the lay-up.

“We can’t collapse, we have to keep our composure,” Solverson said. “We have to do all the little things, all the little fundamentals things you learn the first day of basketball. That was really what I was trying to do, every time the ball went up I just tried to get the rebound.”

Smith regained the lead for Iowa as she had a fastbreak lay-up. Ohm hit another three before Solverson knotted it back up at 65-65. Smith gave the lead back to the Hawkeyes as she made a free throw and missed the second before senior forward Krista VandeVenter grabbed the rebound and made the lay-up to give Iowa a three point advantage. Smith ended the game on a jumper as the Hawkeyes won 72-69.

“The last four minutes of the game we are down two points,” Bluder said. “Then we outscore them, I think 9-4 with them getting one of their lay-ups when it didn’t really matter, so basically 9-2 during that stretch was tremendous. Krista VandeVenter gets four points in the last four minutes and that is about her average, so that was really nice to see.”

“In the last minute and a half, a couple seniors stepped up and made plays,” Minnesota head coach Pam Borton said. “We put ourselves in position to win the game but they just made plays down the stretch.”

Ausdemore led all scorers with 22 points on 6 of 10 shooting from behind the arc as Solverson added another 20 and Smith 12. The Gophers continued to out-hustle Iowa for rebounds as they won the battle 45 to 33 as they pulled down 22 on offensive. Iowa shot 29 of 60 (48 percent) from the floor, 10 of 18 (56 percent) from deep range and 4 of 7 (57 percent) from the charity stripe. Minnesota was 25 of 66 (38 percent), 5 of 14 (36 percent) and 14 of 17 (82 percent).

“It feels good to get back on the winning track,” Bluder said. “Now we would like to start a new streak. We were getting killed on the boards all night, offensive boards just not doing a good job. In the end when we had to have them Stacy Schlapkohl really came through for us with the rebounds.”

“On our last media timeout Coach Bluder said, `Whoever wants to win this game will rebound these last three and a half minutes, every rebound needs to be ours, every loose ball needs to be ours,” Solverson said. “We knew that, we learned it from previous experiences in games that we have lost or games we were out-rebounded, we knew that rebounding was going to be the key in the last few minutes.”

Iowa will travel to Ohio State on Thursday, Feb. 21, with a 6:05 p.m. tip-off.

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