Deja Vu for Bluder's Bunch

March 6, 2010

INDIANAPOLIS – If fans of the Bluder’s Bunch are a superstitious bunch, they might want to cheer for one of their stars to get called for two quick fouls tomorrow at 3:30 p.m. Iowa time when the Hawkeyes play for the Big Ten Conference’s automatic berth in the 2010 NCAA Tournament as one of two teams in the championship game of the 2010 Big Ten Conference Women’s Basketball Tournament.

Why? Well, on Saturday against Michigan State super freshman Jaime Printy played just four minutes in the first half after having been whistled for two quick fouls, the Hawkeyes played the Spartans to a one-point deficit at halftime, then muscled their way to a 59-54 victory.

That pattern matched what occurred on the floor of Conseco Fieldhouse in Indianapolis on Friday for the Hawkeyes when they beat Penn State. In that game it was Kachine Alexander who was sent to the pine after barely breaking a sweat. The Hawkeyes trailed by just two at intermission before rolling to an 82-75 victory.

Printy finished Saturday’s semifinal game with the Spartans with 10 points and was one of four Hawkeyes to score in double-digits. But, again, as it has been so often this season, it was Kachine Alexander who was the difference for Bluder’s team. The junior forward registered another double-double — a team-high 14 points and 10 rebounds — in a game that more closely resembled a rugby match than a game of hoops.

“She’s the heart. She’s the passion. She’s the pulse,” Bluder said of her team’s energizer shortly after she sank four free throws in the final minute to put the game in the win column for the Hawkeyes – the second pair coming with a cut on her lip that Alexander wouldn’t expose for fear of having to take the bench.

Iowa Hawkeyes vs. Michigan State Spartans 1st 2nd Final
Iowa Hawkeyes (19-12) 25 34 59
Michigan State Spartans (23-9) 26 28 54
Statistical Leaders
Points: Kachine Alexander (Iowa) 14 | Aisha Jefferson (Michigan State) 23
Rebounds: Morgan Johnson (Iowa) 11 | Cetera Washington (Michigan State) 6
Assists: Kachine Alexander (Iowa) 4. | Kalisha Keane (Michigan State) 3

Bluder, visibly upset with the lack of officiating in her opinion, had high praise for her squad.

“I’m so very, very proud of our kids for taking care of business in an incredibly physical game. Kash took a lot of abuse tonight and it bothers me that it was not taken care of on the court,” the Big Ten Coach of the Year said with more than a hint of anger in her voice.

“These aren’t professional athletes. These are children and we have to take care of them and understand that.”

Bluder said the difference in the game was her team’s defense and its rebounding. The Hawkeyes forced 21 turnovers and registered a 37-30 margin the boards.

“It has to be one of our lower scoring wins and we won the battle of the boards against the Big Ten’s top rebounding team.”

Friday, Gabby Machado came off the bench to score 10 points. Saturday, Trisha Nesbitt took over when Printy was sidelined to score a career-high 10 points.

“Trisha was a warrior. She didn’t back off her shots at all,” said Bluder.

Iowa now prepares for the winner of the second semifinal on Saturday: No. 1 seed Ohio State against No. 4 Wisconsin. Iowa lost its only game against the Buckeyes by four, 86-82, in Columbus, Ohio; the Hawkeyes swept the season series with the Badgers.