Storm Before the Storm

Dec. 24, 2010

Editor’s Note: The following first appeared in the University of Iowa’s Hawk Talk Daily, an e-newsletter that offers a daily look at the Iowa Hawkeyes, delivered free each morning to thousands of fans of the Hawkeyes worldwide.

IOWA CITY, Iowa — Three games in five days? No problem.

Finals week ended Dec. 17 on the campus of the University of Iowa, but as of Dec. 18, the women’s basketball team still had three tests ahead of them.

Iowa embarked on a five-day three-game swing Dec. 18 that included stops at South Dakota State and Drake and a nonconference home date with Northern Iowa.

In the process, all Iowa did was win the mythical state championship, gift wrap their coach win No. 200 at Iowa and improve its record to 12-1, the best start to a season since winning the first 13 games of 2004-05.

“We’re really a team that knows how to win,” said sophomore Morgan Johnson following Iowa’s 75-64 win over Northern Iowa. “I believe we really have a lot of competitive people on this team that love winning. I think that really showed over the last three games.”

The Hawkeyes kicked off the three-game series with a 65-54 victory at South Dakota State behind Johnson’s career-high 26 points.

“That was a great game,” said Johnson. “Jaime (Printy) and Kamille (Wahlin) has some awesome assists and South Dakota State was going for a lot of ball fakes. It worked out well and was a great way to start the trip.”

The Hawkeye trip continued Dec. 20 with a stop at Drake, the place head coach Lisa Bluder left 199 wins ago to become the head coach at Iowa. The Hawkeyes rallied from a six-point halftime deficit to top the Bulldogs 75-71 and give Bluder her 200th career win at Iowa. The victory was also Iowa’s second over an in-state opponent this season — Iowa topped Iowa State 62-40 Dec. 9.

The Hawkeyes’ five-day whirlwind ended with their final non-conference tune-up in Carver-Hawkeye Arena Dec. 22. The 75-64 win over Northern Iowa marked Iowa’s third instate victory and awarded the Hawkeyes the state championship for the second time in three years.

“One of our goals was to win the state championship this year,” Bluder said of the wins over Iowa State, Drake and UNI. “It feels good to finally do it because we’ve been talking about it for a long time. I’m really proud of our women and how we competed in the non-conference season. Coming out of here 12-1 is pretty good.”

Bluder said the state championship wasn’t easy to come by with three games in five days. Particularly after Iowa watched its 19-point halftime lead cut to five points against the Panthers.

“I think personally maybe we did (tire) a little bit. I think really the last eight minutes of this game was pretty tough on us, 10 minutes of the game maybe. But we never really brought it up. I really don’t like to make excuses. I don’t like that. But I think you could see that we got a little bit fatigued. I think that’s why some of our shots weren’t hitting.”

Bluder’s sophomore center echoed her comments. “You could definitely feel it,” Johnson added. “It was a little bit tiring, but I feel like our motivation to win and our desire to not lose to this team really helped us get the win.”

The Hawkeyes will now enjoy a well-deserved break before tipping off the Big Ten season Dec. 30 at Penn State. It’s a rest they earned and look forward to.

“Definitely,” Johnson said of the upcoming break. “I’m going to go to Nebraska for an extended family Christmas. It will be relaxing. I can’t wait to see my grandparents.”