Nov. 13, 2011
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IOWA CITY, Iowa — On the first weekend of the women’s basketball season, losing a game is not as grave for the University of Iowa as losing starting center Morgan Johnson to a knee injury.
UNLV (2-0 overall) used a late flurry to floor the Hawkeyes (1-1), 69-59, in Sunday’s championship of the Hawkeye Challenge on Mediacom Court inside Carver-Hawkeye Arena.
The long-term fate of Johnson remains unknown. Johnson was battling on the offensive glass when she hit the floor — and stayed there — with 5 minutes, 12 seconds remaining and Iowa trailing, 55-54.
In her postgame press conference, UI head coach Lisa Bluder had not received an update on Johnson’s health, who left the court with a limp and ice taped to her right knee. Johnson has been slowed this season by tendonitis in both knees.
“I’m hoping it’s more of the same (tendonitis) and nothing more than that,” Bluder said. “It hurt not to have your center in there, somebody that you really rely on and has been there for us in those situations.”
At 6-foot-5, Johnson is the tallest Hawkeye, who led the team with eight rebounds in a first-round win over Harvard on Saturday. UNLV did a good job keeping Johnson (three rebounds) and the rest of the Hawkeyes off the glass, while compiling a 49-29 edge in that category.
“Rebounding continues to be a sore subject for us,” Bluder said. “I don’t know who you’re going to beat giving up 20 (more) rebounds. We’ve got some work to do and it’s not just the defensive end of boxing out; it’s both ends we have to do a better job on the boards.”
The script has been somewhat the same for Iowa’s first two games — slow start, dig out of a hole and finish strong. Two of those three we true in the championship — except the strong finish. Iowa trailed by 13 with 6:46 left in the first half, led by nine with 14:03 left, and lost by 10. The Rebels closed the game on a 16-5 spurt after Iowa took a 54-53 lead on two free throws by junior guard Jaime Printy.
UNLV head coach Kathy Olivier said the fluctuation-score scenario is nothing new for her Rebels, who lost more times a year ago after jumping out to leads than she would have liked. On Sunday, she credited the leadership of four seniors — Sandrine Nzeukou, Markiell Styles, Jamie Smith and Lenita Sanford — for keeping UNLV focused during its Sunday silent period.
“When we had our lull, I thought we stayed together,” Olivier said. “I thought our defense was good. We contested all shots and we didn’t give them any clean looks. We pretty-much took away their transition game and (Iowa) feeds off that. Our defense helped our offense because we need a lot of help offensively.”
Smith (17 rebounds) and Nzeukou (15) combined to out-rebound the entire Iowa team, 32-29.
Printy led the Hawkeyes with 25 points and four assists. Hawkeye senior Kamille Wahlin, who scored the team’s first eight points, finished with 15 points, three assists and two steals.
The Hawkeyes were a perfect 10-of-10 from the free throw line, but the Rebels made it to the charity stripe 11 more times.
Iowa forced 22 turnovers — six more than it committed — but shot 35 percent from the field (21-of-60) and 25.9 percent from 3-point range (7-of-27). Wahlin, Kelly Krei and Samantha Logic all had two steals; Wahlin (3-of-9) and Printy (3-of-10) were the Hawkeye leaders from long-range.
Wahlin scored the first eight points for the Hawkeyes and a 3-point field goal at the 17:06 mark opened the game’s scoring. She sank another jump shot a minute later, giving Iowa a 5-2 edge 3:52 into the game. The Hawkeyes played from behind for most of the next 13 minutes. A made 3-pointer by Printy put them on top 26-25 with 3:20 left in the half.
Iowa trailed by 13 at 23-10 with 6:46 left in the first half. The Hawkeyes closed with a 21-7 run and took a 31-30 lead into the break.
Iowa scored 14 points off turnovers in the first 20 minutes, a number that was nearly balanced by the Rebels scoring 12 points in the paint. UNLV held a 23-16 advantage in rebounding. That disparity grew over the final 20 minutes.
Iowa returns to the court to host Albany on Wednesday with a 7 p.m. (CT) tip from Mediacom Court.
“We have to learn from (the UNLV loss),” Printy said. “It’s early in the season and we have a lot of upperclassmen that can lead this team. We just need to learn from our mistakes and come ready to go (for practice) Tuesday.”