Dec. 6, 2009
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24 Hawkeyes to Watch
By Richie Zawistowski
IOWA CITY, Iowa — The Iowa Hawkeyes clawed their way back from the Michigan Wolverines, but missed free-throws down the stretch would ultimately lead to Iowa losing a nail-biting Big Ten Conference season opener, 54-51 Sunday evening inside Carver-Hawkeye Arena.
Normally a good free-throw shooting team, Iowa shot just 50-percent for the game, and was 0-4 from the charity stripe in the 2nd half, as the Hawkeyes came just four points shy of overcoming a 14-point halftime deficit.
“Well I thought we did another great job of battling back,” said UI head coach Lisa Bluder.” “This team is not going to quit, I think we’ve showed that over and over again. Unfortunately, these close games we’re just not winning. I think part of it is learning to put the game away and get that victory, but we’ve also put ourselves in some pretty big holes.”
Theairra Taylor led Iowa with 13 points, while also playing a superb defensive game registering four blocks and three steals.
“When I step it up on defense, I feel that my offense just comes naturally,” said Taylor.
Taylor blocked the first attempt of the game from the Wolverines, and later down the floor found Kamille Wahlin as she knocked down Iowa’s two first points of the game.
However Iowa started the half with apparent lids locked tight on the rim. Iowa shot only 28-percent in the first half, which helped Michigan to jump out to an early 15-2 lead. Morgan Johnson was able to take the lid off with a jumper to cut the deficit to 4-15 with 12:18 left in the half.
Taylor was able to pull the Hawkeyes within seven after knocking down a three-pointer in the corner to trim the score to 18-25.
Michigan responded though, and right before halftime Veronica Hicks was able to sail a step-back three through the net at the buzzer to put Michigan up 34-20 heading into the break.
Taylor came out hot for the Hawkeyes as she netted Iowa’s first points of the half for Iowa, and displayed her defensive ability with a steal the next Michigan possession which she took the length of the distance and converted for two one minute into the second half.
Taylor then knocked down another basket, making the score 26-36, and Johnson and Taylor then traded blocks on Michigan’s next two possessions.
The lids would temporarily return on the Iowa basket as the Hawkeyes went into a little slump midway through the second half.
Kelly Krei would break Iowa out of the mini-slump as she hit a huge three with seven minutes remaining for a 41-49 Iowa deficit. Later, Wahlin would cut lead to five, 44-49 hitting her only three-pointer of the game with 5:46 remaining.
One of Iowa’s best players so far this season, Wahlin struggled to find her shot, as she was just 3-15 from the field, and 1-11 from downtown.
She was able to help the team in other ways though as she led the team with six assists including a big play where she got the defender off balance, penetrated, and kicked out to Johnson for a baseline jumper to bring Iowa within three, 48-51 with 3:30 left in the game.
After two missed free throws by Michigan, Iowa took advantage. After a miss-fire, Iowa grabbed the offensive rebound that eventually would lead to a three-pointer in the corner by Krei trimming the deficit to just one, 51-52 with 2:02 remaining.
The Hawkeyes displayed tough-as-nails defense down the stretch forcing Michigan into two tough shots around the rim that rolled out. Taylor then rebounded the ball and was fouled, although she failed to convert on the first free throw in the one-and-one opportunity allowing Michigan to regain possession with 27 seconds left.
An Iowa foul with 21 seconds remaining send Michigan to the line, although Michigan failed to capitalize on a free-throw opportunity as well. Wahlin grabbed the lose-ball and Bluder called timeout.
After an inbound pass under the Michigan basket with 17 seconds left, Jaime Printy was fouled near mid-court giving her a one-and-one opportunity. Again the Hawkeyes were unable to convert the free-throw, and Michigan rebounded the ball and threw an outlet pass down for an easy layup at the other end giving Michigan a 54-51 lead with just 2.5 seconds remaining.
A desperation inbounds pass with 2.5 seconds left was intercepted by Michigan at half court giving the Wolverines a 54-51 victory over Iowa.
Iowa (5-4) will travel to Ames next to battle for the Cy-Hawk trophy on Dec 10, taking on intra-state rival Iowa State. Tip-off is scheduled for 7 p.m.