Feb. 14, 2010
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By David Meyer
IOWA CITY, Iowa — The University of Iowa women’s basketball team hosted Illinois on Valentine’s Day, but the Hawkeyes showed the Illini no compassion. The 77-67 victory marked three-straight victories for Iowa, which has won six of its last seven games.
With the win, the Hawkeyes (14-11 overall, 7-7 Big Ten Conference) moved to .500 in league play.
It was a tale of two halves for Iowa, which dominated the first and almost gave up the huge lead it built in the second.
“I thought the first half was one of the best first halves of basketball we’ve played all year,” UI head coach Lisa Bluder said. “It’s hard to maintain that type of play, but definitely the second half, Illinois came out with a different attitude and played very, very well.”
Kachine Alexander paced the Hawkeye offense. She scored a game-high 24 points and grabbed six rebounds. Alexander did most of her damage from the charity stripe, where she made 17 of 20 free throw attempts.
Jaime Printy and Kamille Wahline followed closely with 17 and 16, respectively for the Hawkeyes. The two remaining starters, Krei and Johnson, both narrowly missed double figures, each amassing nine points.
Wahlin returned to action after suffering a concussion against Michigan State a week ago. She sat out in Iowa’s 71-67 win at Indiana on Feb. 11.
Sunday was “Go Red for Women” day, sponsored by the American Heart Association. The movement is aimed at eradicating heart disease — the number one killer of women. Many fans sported red attire. It was also “National Girls & Women in Sports Day.”
Iowa jumped out to a double-digit lead early in the contest behind a strong outside shooting effort and a stifling zone defense. Illinois was trailing by only five, 11-6, at the 13:29 mark of the first before the Hawkeyes went on a 20-0 run, holding the Illini scoreless for over five minutes, until 8:25 remained.
Iowa displayed Cupid’s marksmanship from the perimeter. Four Hawkeyes hit triples in the opening period as they spread the love around. Alexander, Krei, Wahlin and Printy all showed affection for the long ball. Krei and Printy both netted three, Wahlin hit two, and Alexander cashed in on her lone attempt. Alexander and Printy were in double figures as they headed to the locker room with 12 and 11, respectively.
“I thought the first half was one of the best first halves of basketball we’ve played all year. It’s hard to maintain that type of play, but definitely the second half, Illinois came out with a different attitude and played very, very well.”
UI head coach Lisa Bluder
“When we play that well together and we’re hitting our shots, it’s a lot of fun to be out there,” said Printy.
On the defensive end, Iowa made it difficult for Illinois, forcing 13 turnovers. The Hawkeyes recorded nine steals as well as five blocked shots in the first half. Johnson had four of the swats.
“We were moving on their passes, we had good close-outs, we were getting really good box-outs,” Wahlin said. “I think the turnovers that we got fueled our offense. We were cutting and moving and looking for each other.”
The Illini were shooting a meager 9 of 25 (36 percent) at the break as Iowa led by 27 points, 47-20. The Hawkeyes, on the other hand, lit it up, going 14 of 31 (45 percent), including a blistering 9 of 16 from downtown (56 percent).
“When you’ve got that big of a lead at half time, you really caution yourself about a letdown,” said Bluder.
Wahlin opened the second stanza by draining a jumper from beyond the arc. It extended the Iowa lead to 30 points, Iowa’s largest of the afternoon. Wahlin and Printy started the half where they left off in the first, combining for three more treys by the 16:46 mark. The duo hit four triples each.
Wahlin is now tied for first place with Wendy Ausdemore for single-season three pointers made by a Hawkeye sophomore with 62.
Printy moved into third place in Hawkeye freshman scoring. She has 388 points on the season, trailing only Megan Skouby (414) and Lisa Becker (416).
Illinois went on a mean streak of its own and mounted a valiant comeback effort. The Illini outscored the Hawkeyes 33 to 8 from the 15:00 mark until only 3:30 remained. At that point, the Illini had cut the deficit down to a mere four points and trailed 68-64.
“We just kind of checked out a little bit and didn’t keep the focus. That’s going to happen with young teams,” said Bluder.
The statistical tables had turned: Iowa shot only 7 of 19 (37 percent) from the field in the second half, while Illinois went 15 of 32 (47 percent). The teams shot field goals equally well (42 percent) for the game. The Hawkeyes were 21 of 50, and the Illini made 24 of 57 field goal attempts.
“We didn’t look to attack and pitch as well as we did in the first half,” Bluder said. “Hopefully we can learn something from this.”
Despite the second half surge, Iowa was able to hang on due to the determination of its leader. Alexander grabbed two crucial rebounds down the stretch and got to the line four times in the final 2:45, making all eight free-throw attempts. Alexander scored eight of the Hawkeyes’ last nine points to fend off the Illini.
“I knew I had to get in there and rustle for those rebounds no matter how much gut it took,” Alexander said. “I knew I had to get them.”
Iowa once again out-rebounded its opponent, posting 38 boards to 29 for Illinois.
The Hawkeyes stay home for their next match up against Minnesota on Feb. 18. The tip is set for 7:30 p.m. at Carver-Hawkeye Arena.
“I feel like now we’re really getting into the swing of things, which is really important,” Alexander said. “I just can’t wait to get to the Big Ten Tournament and finish out the season strong. I really do feel this team is getting to the point where we’re going to be a big-time contender.”