Strong shooting sends Hawkeyes to semifinals

March 6, 2009

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by Sean Neugent

INDIANAPOLIS — Live or die by the three.

That has been the University of Iowa women’s basketball team’s philosophy all season. The long-range jumper in the first half and strong shooting in the second half helped the Hawkeyes see another day in the Big Ten Tournament, drubbing Minnesota, 79-64, inside Conseco Fieldhouse on Friday night.

The Hawkeyes (21-9 overall) advance to the semifinals to face Ohio State on Saturday evening. Iowa shot 30 of 60 (50 percent) from the field, 6 of 16 (38 percent) from three-point range with five of those in the first half. The Hawkeyes also grabbed 40 rebounds, 16 coming offensively, and had 15 assists to 11 turnovers. Minnesota (19-11) made 25 of 58 (43 percent) from the floor, 4 of 16 (25 percent) from long-range, and had 31 rebounds.

Iowa was led by Wendy Ausdemore with 25 points on 10 of 16 from field goal range and 4 of 5 from deep. Kachine Alexander had a double-double with 15 points and 13 rebounds, Kristi Smith had 15 points and five assists, while Megan Skouby added 10 points. Minnesota was led by Brittany McCoy and Ashley Ellis-Milan who each scored 15 points, and Emily Fox added 13 points.

“I thought we played 40 minutes,” UI head coach Lisa Bluder said. “I thought we played very well. We did a great job on the boards, we did a good job of taking care of the basketball, and we shot the ball well, so I am really happy for this team.”

There is something about tournament games that brings the best out of teams. For the Hawkeyes, it is improving their seed for the NCAA Tournament. For the Golden Gophers it’s solidifying a spot in the tournament. Iowa and Minnesota came out scorching, each hitting on three consecutive drives to open up the game.

After battling back and forth with the Gophers, the Hawkeyes grabbed the lead, 14-11, thanks to two consecutive layups from Alexander. Minnesota tied it after Iowa had trouble grabbing defensive boards. But Ausdemore hit a long-range jumper to move ahead by three before McCoy matched it on the Gophers’ ensuing possession.

“I thought we played 40 minutes. I thought we played very well. We did a great job on the boards, we did a good job of taking care of the basketball, and we shot the ball well, so I am really happy for this team.”
UI head coach Lisa Bluder

Ausdemore came right back and hit a strong layup before she was fouled and made the free throw for a three-point play. The Hawkeyes stole the ball and Smith hit an off-balanced trey before Ausdemore followed her up with yet another three for the 26-17 advantage with 11:44 remaining. Minnesota slowed the Hawkeyes offense for a few minutes, cutting the deficit to five.

A few free throws and a four-point play from Smith pushed the Hawkeye lead to 11. Smith nailed a trifecta before she was pushed to the ground and hit the free throw to lead 38-27. Ausdemore remained hot and drilled another three-ball as the shot clock expired. The Golden Gophers walked into halftime trailing, 44-34. Ausdemore had 16 points while Alexander had 11 points and nine rebounds at halftime.

Both teams continued to shoot the ball coming out of halftime. The Hawkeyes hit on their first six possessions but Minnesota hit a few shots to stay in striking distance.

There was no stopping Iowa offensively, no matter how much Minnesota’s defense pressured the Hawkeyes. The Golden Gophers forced Ausdemore to shoot with the shot clock winding down and two defenders in her face and she hit a long jumper, just inches short of the three-point line.

Minnesota had the window open for a momentum swing but it was all lost after the Hawkeyes turned the ball over and Fox missed an open layup. The missed layup turned into a mid-range jumper from Kamille Wahlin.

It was a physical game the entire way. With 7:07 remaining in the game and the Hawkeyes sitting with a comfortable 10-point lead, Wahlin pushed the ball up-court to Alexander who ran into a Minnesota defender. She hit her head hard on the floor and had to come out of the game but she did return to the floor.

“I think we responded really well,” Bluder said. “Our team dealt it out. I think we were prepared for this with the physical play. I thought it was a good game all-around. In both areas we did a good job.”

Both teams had trouble scoring with Iowa slowing the tempo, but Minnesota cut into Iowa’s lead, 64-56. The Golden Gophers could not catch a break as Iowa responded with a jumper and a trifecta from Ausdemore. The Hawkeyes jumped out to a 15-point lead with 3:47 remaining after Smith hit two free throws and a jumper. That would seal it for the Hawkeyes who move on to round two of the Big Ten Tournament.

The Hawkeyes will remain in Indianapolis on Saturday to take on No. 12 Ohio State with a 7 p.m. tipoff.

“It’s going to take another great effort,” Bluder said. “It’s hard to play back-to-back games against great competition with a team like Ohio State that is ranked within the top-20 in the country. They are obviously a great team and I know that they will be out for a little revenge of their own [Iowa beat them the last time they matched-up]. But, you know something? We are in the semifinals and we are going to give it our best shot tomorrow.”