March 7, 2008
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INDIANAPOLIS – One down, two to go for Coach Lisa Bluder’s University of Iowa women’s basketball team.
Bluder’s Bunch, regular season co-champions of the Big Ten Conference, advanced to the semi-final round of the 2008 Big Ten Women’s Basketball Tournament with a 58-37 victory over Michigan Friday at Conseco Fieldhouse.
The Hawkeyes turned the tables on the league’s top defensive team during the regular season. The Wolverines shot just 27 percent from the field, hitting only 13 of their 48 attempts — and just three of 15 tries from behind the arc — en route to the lowest offensive total in Big Ten Tournament history. Iowa wasn’t white hot themselves, but did shoot at a 42 percent clip, a mark that included six three-pointers.
Bluder’s Bunch also dominated the boards, racking up a 46-24 advantage on the glass. Only five of Michigan’s rebounds came on the offensive side of the court.
“I am so pleased with our rebounding. We thought that was a weakness for them and a strength for us. That was a big key to the victory.”
“This wasn’t a great offensive game for us and that’s because Michigan’s a very, very good defensive team. But, to our team’s credit, our defense was big for us today,” said Bluder, whose team won its opening game in post-season play for the first time in three seasons.
“We probably benefitted from not playing yesterday. Michigan missed some shots as a result of tired legs. But, hey, the day off is the reward for success during the regular season,” the Big Ten Coach of the Year added.
The victory pushes Iowa’s overall record to 21-9 and undoubtedly moves the Hawkeyes up in the eyes of the NCAA Tournament selection committee. But Bluder’s focus remains exclusively on the task at hand.
“I am so pleased with our rebounding. We thought that was a weakness for them and a strength for us. That was a big key to the victory,” she said.
“We also went deep in the bench. We spread the minutes around and that will help us tomorrow. We’ll be a little fresher because of our ability to put this one away a little early.”
No Iowa player saw more than 28 minutes of action and many saw significantly less than that.
Megan Skouby and Johanna Solverson paced Iowa with 10 points each. They were among eight different players to score for Iowa, a group that included senior guard Abby Emmert , who came off the bench to contribute eight points, four assists and two rebounds in 15 minutes of action – a line on the box score that is easily the best of the season for the native of Winterset, Iowa.
“What a nice day for a very deserving senior,” Bluder said..
Iowa was led in rebounding by Solverson and JoAnn Hamlin, who had nine and seven rebounds, respectively.
The game’s outcome was never in doubt, particularly when Skouby pushed the margin to 18 at 51-33 when she sank a short jumper with 4:04 left to play.
Iowa raced to a 30-19 halftime lead thanks to a balanced offense and domination on the glass. Eight different Hawkeyes scored during the first 20 mintues, a list that was paced by six points each by Smith and Solverson, who also had a team-high five rebounds.
Iowa owned the glass, building a 22-12 margin in rebounds while limiting Michigan to just one offensive rebound. The Hawkeye defense was also stifling, holding Michigan to just nine field goals in 26 attempts. Iowa was good on 11 of 25 attempts from the field including four of seven tries from behind the three-point arc.
Michigan scored the game’s first bucket, but, from that point forward, it was all Iowa. The Hawkeyes’ first double-digit lead came at the 8:03 mark when Solverson sank a jumper to put Iowa ahead, 21-11. The lead stretched to 13 at 28-15 when Stacy Schlapkohl dropped the first of two free throws with just more than two minutes left before intermission.
The victory Friday gave Iowa the season series with the Wolverines. Iowa had split its regular season games with Michigan, losing 63-46 in Ann Arbor, Mich., on Dec. 30 before defeating the Wolverines 66-61 on Jan. 27 in Carver-Hawkeye Arena.
Iowa advanced to Saturday’s semi-final round of this year’s Big Ten Tournament where it will play Purdue. That semi-final game is scheduled to begin shortly after 5 p.m. (Iowa time) Saturday and will be televised live by the Big Ten Network. The Hawkeyes and Boilermakers split the two games the teams played during the regular season.
A victory on Saturday would secure Bluder and the Hawkeyes their first appearance in the Big Ten Tournament championship game since winning the post-season event in 2001. That year, Iowa strung together victories over Indiana, Illinois and Purdue in the Big Ten Tournament and Oregon in the NCAA Tournament before having their season come to an end with a 78-69 loss to Utah in second round action of the national championship.
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