Wahlin preparing for first NCAA tournament

March 20, 2009

Wahlin talks NCAA tournament

IOWA CITY, Iowa — Last year at this time, Kamille Wahlin and her Crookston (Minn.) teammates were still celebrating a 75-68 win over Hayfield in the Class AA consolation game at the girls’ state basketball tournament.

Today Wahlin, a freshman guard for the University of Iowa, is preparing to start in the NCAA women’s basketball tournament.

“When I was a senior (in high school), I didn’t think a whole lot about (the NCAA tournament),” Wahlin said. “But when I came here it is something you think about all the time. We have a group of five seniors and it was their goal and a team goal, so that’s what we worked for.”

The Hawkeyes (21-10 overall) are in the NCAA tournament for the second straight season and for the third time in four years. They host Georgia Tech (20-9) from the Atlantic Coach Conference on Sunday, March 22, at approximately 8:30 p.m. inside Carver-Hawkeye Arena. The Yellow Jackets defeated Iowa 76-57 on Nov. 28, 2007 in the ACC/Big Ten Challenge. In doing so, Georgia Tech joins Wyoming, Ohio State and Purdue as the only teams in the past two seasons to defeat the Hawkeyes at home.

“Everybody we get this time of year is going to be a great team,” UI head coach Lisa Bluder said. “Georgia Tech is obviously a very good team.”

Last season the Yellow Jackets scored 55 of their 76 points off 26 Iowa turnovers or from second-chance points. Iowa led 50-49 before being outscored 27-7 over the final seven minutes.

Wahlin was just beginning to think about her final season of high school basketball when that game was played. Now she has been through an 18-game Big Ten schedule and has battled against five nationally ranked opponents.

“We’ve had a tough schedule that has prepared us so far,” Wahlin said. “We’ve played a lot of good competition and whether it’s the Big Ten or the teams we played before conference play, we have grown a lot and become a better team.”

Wahlin earned her first collegiate start Jan. 26 during a 77-69 victory against Michigan. She now has a streak of 13 consecutive starts and the Hawkeyes are 10-3 during that time. Wahlin was named to the coaches all-Big Ten Freshman Team and since being inserted into the starting lineup has averaged 11.3 points, 4.5 rebounds and 4.2 assists per game. In the last 13 games, she has made 21 of 47 three-point field goals (.447) and has averaged more than 34 minutes of playing time.

During an 85-75 win over eventual league champion Ohio State on Feb. 12, Wahlin scored a season-high 19 points on 8 of 14 shooting from the field (2 of 2 from three-point range), with five assists.

The length and physical nature of the college season has been noticeable.

“The college season is a lot longer, so you have to make sure you take care of your body a lot more,” Wahlin said. “Every ache and pain is worth being in the NCAA tournament.”

Iowa has not played since facing No. 12 Ohio State in the Big Ten tournament March 7. The Hawkeyes will have 15 days off before tangling with Georgia Tech.

“In practice the coaches stay on us and make sure we’re doing every drill sharp,” Wahlin said. “We do different game situations. Mentally, you just have to make sure you stay sharp in practice.”

This is the eighth time Iowa has advanced to the postseason in Bluder’s nine seasons as head coach. Since 2000-01, the Hawkeyes have played in the NCAA tournament six times and the WNIT twice.

Click HERE to purchase tickets online. Tickets can also be purchased by calling 1-800 IA-HAWKS or at the UI Athletics Ticket Office in Carver-Hawkeye Arena.