Nov. 15, 2009
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IOWA CITY, Iowa — Kachine Alexander doesn’t just talk about “hustle plays,” she lives them.
The University of Iowa junior had four steals and many other aggressive contributions that don’t always show up in a box score to lead the Hawkeyes to the championship and earn most valuable player honors at the KCRG-TV9 Hawkeye Challenge on Sunday.
“What do you say about Kachine?” UI head coach Lisa Bluder said. “If people don’t want to come watch her play, they’re just silly. They’re missing an opportunity to see a player that is so good at crashing and keeping the ball alive and continuing to persevere.”
Alexander scored 21 points with 12 rebounds, four steals, four assists and two blocked shots as Iowa defeated Illinois State, 75-67, in the tournament final. The Hawkeyes are off to a 2-0 start for the third time in the last four seasons. The Redbirds, favored to win the Missouri Valley Conference, fall to 1-1.
Alexander was joined on the all-tournament team by sophomore point guard Kamille Wahlin. Wahlin was the second of four Hawkeyes to score in double figures with 15. Her three-point field goal with 3 minutes, 51 seconds remaining gave Iowa the lead for good at 64-63. On the preceding Hawkeye series, Wahlin fed the ball inside to center Morgan Johnson, who was fouled and made 1 of 2 free throws to pull Iowa within 63-61. Seven straight Hawkeye points came from the free throw line from 10:04 until Wahlin’s trey.
“Sometimes your shots fall and sometimes they don’t,” Wahlin said. “When I got my feet set on the one three-pointer, it felt good and it went in. Your focus has to be on finishing the game.”
Did the Hawkeyes ever finish the game. Illinois State was stuck on 63 points from the 6:18 mark until Maggie Krick converted a layup with 1:05 left, cutting Iowa’s advantage to 68-65. The Redbirds led by five points twice during the second half, including a 56-51 edge with 6:18 left.
“I’m really proud of our players for this win,” Bluder said. “This is a great victory for us. It shows how much character these women have to be able to hold their heads high after what they’ve been through. Losing four players in one week’s time is tough for any team to handle.”
The injured list for the Hawkeyes includes senior JoAnn Hamlin (blood clot in her leg), sophomore Hannah Draxten (disc in back), and freshmen Gabby Machado (ankle) and Theairra Taylor (facial injury).
Iowa attempted 26 three-point field goals (making nine) against Illinois State and the Hawkeyes were 22 of 30 from the free throw line. Sophomore Kelly Krei, known for her speed and athleticism, dialed long distance four times in the first half and shared game-high scoring honors with 12 points at the break.
“Kelly hits four three-pointers in the first half and that was just tremendous,” Bluder said. “She took advantage of what they were giving her.”
Krei finished with 15 points. The other Hawkeye in double figures was freshman Jaime Printy, who totaled 16 points, seven rebounds and four assists.
“Jaime’s maturity showed out there,” Bluder said. “She didn’t look like a freshman. She didn’t get nervous down the stretch.”
Printy scored 11 points in the second half. She sank a three-pointer with just over 10 minutes remaining to cut into a five-point Illinois State lead. One of her most impressive plays was with 65 seconds remaining. Printy drove the lane, challenged Redbird 6-foot-5 center Nicolle Lewis, and made a field goal that extended Iowa’s lead to five points.
Only six Iowa players were on the court for 16 or more minutes. The lone bench points for the Hawkeyes came on a first-half three-pointer by Kelsey Cermak. So without depth, Iowa relied on hustle. And what was Alexander’s favorite “hustle play” in a game full of them?
“Probably running into my coaches,” Alexander said with a laugh. “I guess the last one. It was at the end of the game — the off-the-leg one.”
Even with just 3.1 seconds remaining and the Hawkeyes holding an insurmountable eight-point lead, Alexander was still searching for hustle plays. She batted a ball off the leg of an Illinois State player, who helplessly watched it roll out-of-bounds and over to the victorious Hawkeyes.
Iowa returns to Carver-Hawkeye Arena on Wednesday, Nov. 18, to play Kansas with a 7 p.m. tip. Paraphrasing the words of Bluder, it’s more than silly to not want to watch Alexander and the Hawkeyes in action. It’s a shame.