Oh, So Very, Very Close

March 7, 2010

INDIANAPOLIS – Remarkable. Unbelievable. Impossible. Improbable. Very, very, very improbable.

However you choose to describe it, the facts are the facts: The same Iowa women’s basketball team that sat in last place – 11th place – in late January is the same women’s basketball team that played in the championship game of the Big Ten Conference’s post-season tournament Sunday before it started its remarkable, unbelievable, impossible, improbable, very, very, very improbable run to the big stage in Indianapolis.

And, had not been for a 35-point performance by one of the nation’s best women’s college basketball players, Ohio State’s Jantel Lavender, the Hawkeyes would be celebrating their third Big Ten Tournament title in school history. Lavender’s two free throws with 1.9 seconds left to play Sunday in Conseco Fieldhouse gave the Buckeyes a 66-64 victory and their second straight Big Ten tournament title.

Iowa’s near-miss for the tournament title was triggered by a wonderful effort by sophomore point guard Kamille Wahlin. The southpaw scored a team-high 20 points, was credited with 3 steals and 2 assists. Her attempt at a game-winning three-pointer as time expired just missed but it was one of her few misses from the field. The Minnesota native also was charged with only two turnovers in 39 minutes of action.

Kelly Krei – another sophomore – scored 18 points and grabbed eight rebounds as she continued her late season surge, a surge that includes a productive stroke from behind the arc. She was good on four of eight attempts for three on Sunday.

Iowa Hawkeyes vs. Ohio State Buckeyes 1st 2nd Final
Iowa Hawkeyes (19-13) 41 23 64
Ohio State Buckeyes (30-4) 33 33 66
Statistical Leaders
Points: Kamille Wahlin (Iowa) 20 | Jantel Lavender (Ohio State) 35
Rebounds: Kelly Krei (Iowa) 8 | Jantel Lavender(Ohio State) 10
Assists: Kachine Alexander (Iowa) 3. | Samantha Prahalis (Ohio State) 7

The consolation prize for the Big Ten’s youngest women’s basketball team – and a force to be reckoned with in the for years to come – is an at-large invitation to the 2010 NCAA Tournament. Probably a bubble team that was leaning “in” entering the weekend of action in Indianapolis, Iowa boarded the bus home with victories over Penn State and Michigan State, wins that pushed their win total to 19 – a mark that should be more than enough to be admitted in to the field of 64.

And, make no mistake, this team will not be happy with just an invitation. They’ll want victories.