Rock Chalk, Buck Night

Nov. 16, 2009

IOWA CITY, Iowa — Lisa Bluder knew that she would have young players on the court this season, but the University of Iowa women’s basketball coach didn’t expect to be this young this quick.

With two freshmen in the starting lineup and two others seeing time during the Hawkeye’s most-recent 75-67 win against Illinois State on Sunday, the Iowa rookies are growing up quickly. Now they will face Kansas on Wednesday (7 p.m. start), a team featuring Danielle McCray, the Big 12 preseason Player of the Year. Last season the Jayhawks won 22 games and finished runner-up in the WNIT. They defended their home court against Iowa, 76-55.

“Kansas took it to us at their place last year and they’re better this year,” Bluder said at a news conference Monday inside Carver-Hawkeye Arena. “This will be the first time we’re going to see this type of defensive intensity and denial and pressure like this. They’re incredibly athletic with phenomenal athletes. Kansas is a very good basketball team.”

Wednesday’s game between the Hawkeyes (2-0 overall) and Kansas (1-0) will be the annual “Buck Night.” All tickets will sell for $1.

The Jayhawks opened the season with a 106-80 victory against Oral Roberts. McCray is also a preseason All-American candidate. With the injury to JoAnn Hamlin, Iowa doesn’t even have a senior available for action. The Hawkeyes will start a junior (Kachine Alexander), two sophomores (Kamille Wahlin and Kelly Krei) and freshmen Jaime Printy and Morgan Johnson.

“We were expecting to be a young team, but we didn’t expect our freshmen to have to play this much this early,” Bluder said. “That can be a great opportunity for a freshman, though. They have to go out and use that opportunity and enjoy the opportunity to play and get better on the floor.”

After two games, Printy (32 minutes per game) and Johnson (26.5) are averaging 29.3 minutes per game. They are also averaging 19 points and 11 rebounds.

“We’re going to come ready for the challenge,” Printy said. “Obviously Kansas is a really good team, but as long as we do our thing and hit some shots, we’ll be OK.”

“I thought Jaime played very well and she’s not even hitting her stride right now, which is her long-distance shot,” Bluder said. “She’s getting better defensively, she’s taking the ball to the hole, she’s passing the ball well and dribbling it with confidence. She’s playing well as a freshman.”

Hitting shots — especially from the outside — is what Krei did during the championship game of the KCRG-TV9 Challenge on Sunday. Krei was 4 of 5 from behind the arc, a rarity for someone who played inside in high school.

“It’s a unique opportunity to be able to shoot outside,” Krei said. “This summer I took advantage of the gym and shot a lot and tried to improve my outside shot. If you have an open shot, coach tells you to take the shot. If not, there’s probably a teammate that has a better shot.”

On the injury front, Bluder said that freshman post Gabby Machado is “making progress” with an ankle sprain and could be available Wednesday. Sophomore Hannah Draxten is expected to resume mild activity this week, but is doubtful for Kansas on Wednesday and Northern Iowa on Sunday. Freshman Theairra Tyalor is seeing a specialist Tuesday in an attempt to mend her injured eye socket. Hamlin remains in intensive care in the hospital, but Bluder is hopeful that she will be able to attend the contest against the Jayhawks.

“We have a lot of things to motivate us right now,” Bluder said. “With the types of injuries we have — that’s motivation in itself. We need to be appreciative that we have health and the ability to go out and play and play as hard as we can.”

The first road test of the season will come for the Hawkeyes on Sunday at 3 p.m. in Cedar Falls. Iowa defeated the Panthers, 72-46, last season at home.

“There’s always a little more added incentive and it’s fun because it’s nonconference,” Bluder said. “There is something that amps you up a little bit more playing an in-state school. We get excited to play the in-state schools.”

The Hawkeyes have won 6 of 7 games against programs from the state of Iowa.