Feb. 24, 2010
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There are two games left in the regular season for the University of Iowa women’s basketball team and veteran players like Hamlin and Alexander know what’s at stake. So does head coach Lisa Bluder:
An awful lot is at stake, that’s what.
“We enter this week with an awful lot at stake,” Bluder told a group of media Wednesday in Carver-Hawkeye Arena’s press room. “We have a situation right now where we could — if we win two games — finish as high as third in the conference. If we lose two games I think we could finish down in the cellar near 10th. What a lot lying on two games.”
Iowa (15-12 overall, 8-8 Big Ten Conference) hosts Indiana on Thursday, Feb. 25, beginning at 7 p.m.; the Hawkeyes travel to Wisconsin on Sunday. The Hoosiers are 13-14, 6-10; Wisconsin is 19-8, 9-7.
When Iowa defeated Indiana 71-67 on Feb. 11, neither team was at full strength. The Hawkeyes were without starting point guard Kamille Wahlin (14.4 points, 2.7 3-point field goals per game) and Indiana was without post Sasha Chaplin (9.7 points, 7.0 rebounds).
“Indiana is a very important game,” Bluder said. “Playing at Wisconsin, you know we’ve had good success in the Kohl Center. It kind of reminds me of that situation a few years back when we had to go to Wisconsin on their Senior Night and win that game in order to clinch the Big Ten title…and we did it. It’s going to have that same kind of feeling with this game.”
On March 2, 2008, Iowa defeated Wisconsin 87-78 in Madison to win the Big Ten Conference regular-season championship.
There is an enormous difference between sweeping or splitting the final two games. A sweep would give the Hawkeyes a record of 17-12.
“I feel that’s at-large worthy,” Bluder said. “Third in the Big Ten; it’s also important to do well in the Big Ten tournament, but if we stopped the season at that point, I think we would be worthy of an NCAA at-large bid.”
A split and Iowa is sitting at 16-13.
” Kachine Alexander sent a text message out to the whole team before practice (Tuesday) about how excited she was to be in practice and how we were going to get on another roll. That’s great leadership. It’s tremendous. It’s one thing for the coaches to say it, it’s an entirely different thing when the players say it because it means a lot more coming from them.”
UI head coach Lisa Bluder
“I don’t think so,” Bluder said. “I think it’s really important for us to get a couple wins this week. If we split, we have to do really good things in the Big Ten tournament.”
Despite falling at Northwestern on Sunday, Bluder said the Hawkeyes remain hungry. Enter Alexander and Hamlin to add a little motivational emphasis.
“Kachine Alexander sent a text message out to the whole team before practice (Tuesday) about how excited she was to be in practice and how we were going to get on another roll,” Bluder said. “That’s great leadership. It’s tremendous. It’s one thing for the coaches to say it, it’s an entirely different thing when the players say it because it means a lot more coming from them.”
As a freshman at Kansas State, Hamlin played in the 2006 WNIT. In 2008-09 she played in back-to-back NCAA tournaments with Iowa.
“You can’t really explain the feeling you get playing in the NCAA tournament,” Hamlin said. “You’re one of the top teams in the nation; nobody’s better than you. That sets you apart. The NIT is fun, you probably get to play on your home court, but playing against the Oklahoma’s and teams like that in the NCAA tournament is a totally different feeling.”
The message was received by freshman Jaime Printy: “The NCAA is more fun and more of a privilege,” she said. “It’s more exciting and it gives you something to work for and you realize what’s on the line.”
Hamlin doesn’t have a postgame speech crafted for Senior Night on Thursday.
“I’ll probably work on that (Wednesday night),” Hamlin said. “You don’t want to be too emotional, but at the same time you don’t want to take it lightly and wish you would have said this or wish you would have felt this way if it was my last season.”
“Indiana is kind of a special night because it is our last home game,” Bluder said. “It’s our Senior Night, which is a little unusual with it being only JoAnn Hamlin. I definitely want to give JoAnn the recognition she deserves for what she’s done for us over the last several years.”
Although there will be no official word until the summer, the Hawkeyes are still holding onto hope that Hamlin could be granted a medical redshirt and return next season.
“We don’t know what next year holds and I’ve been told not to get my hopes up with her getting a sixth year,” Bluder said. “We have to approach this as her last time in Carver-Hawkeye Arena and then if we get the glorious surprise of her being back another year, we’ll just do it again; she gets two.”
For now, the certainty rests with the fact there are two regular-season games remaining. And the fact that two wins are better than one.
“We’re glad we’re in this position and playing for something in the last week of the Big Ten season,” Bluder said.
There is an awful lot to play for.