Jan. 3, 2012
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IOWA CITY, Iowa — Two of the top post players in the Big Ten Conference square off on Thursday night when the University of Iowa women’s basketball team hosts Illinois.
UI junior Morgan Johnson and Illinois junior Karisma Penn will lead their teams in a conference battle on Mediacom Court inside Carver-Hawkeye Arena beginning at 7 p.m.
The Hawkeyes bring a 9-6 overall and 1-1 Big Ten record into the game, while the Fighting Illini are 6-9 overall and 0-2 in conference play after losing at the buzzer in a 64-63 defeat at home against Purdue on Jan. 2.
“Karisma Penn is considered one of the best posts in the Big Ten Conference, although I would have to contend Morgan Johnson is playing as one of the best posts right now,” said UI head coach Lisa Bluder during her Tuesday press conference.
“Morgan is playing with a really good level of confidence right now. She’s making excellent reads on when to cut back door to get high percentage shots. I think we can still get the ball inside even more.”
UI head coach Lisa Bluder
“I think Morgan is the best back-to-the-basket post player there is in the Big Ten. Karisma comes out a little bit and can face up and shoot the 17-footer. She’s really probably a power forward playing in the center position.”
Penn is leading the Fighting Illini in scoring and rebounding, averaging 14.3 points and 7.8 rebounds per game. She is shooting 53.8 percent (84-of-156) from the floor and has 35 blocks.
“She’s a great strong post,” said Johnson. “It’s important to limit her touches on the ball because when she gets it she’s so strong that it’s hard to stop her.”
Johnson is Iowa’s second leading scorer, averaging 14.9 points on 54.2 percent shooting. She also averages 5.4 rebounds and 2.1 blocks per game. The 6-foot-5 center has four games where she’s eclipsed the 20-point mark this season, including a 25 point, six rebound effort in her last time out at No. 9 Ohio State.
“Morgan is playing with a really good level of confidence right now,” said Bluder. “She’s making excellent reads on when to cut back door to get high percentage shots. I think we can still get the ball inside even more.”
The Hawkeyes look to bounce back from Monday’s 84-71 road loss at ninth-ranked Ohio State. Iowa led by 15 points with five minutes left in the first half before the Buckeyes used a 17-3 run to take a lead they would never relinquish.
“We played so well for the first 15 minutes of that game, although it’s a 40-minute game,” said Bluder. “Our defense let down, and we really got away from our offense. We have to get back to following the basics of what our offensive schemes are all about so we get those high percentage shots.”
The Hawkeyes’ bench continues to dwindle, as freshman guard Melissa Dixon was the latest UI player to go down Monday in Columbus, and freshman forward Virginia Johnson still hasn’t been cleared because of concussion related symptoms.
“Melissa did something to her knee in the first seconds she was in the game against Ohio State,” said Bluder. “She went to try to contain a drive, pushed off and her knee gave out a little bit. I am not feeling very good about it right now.
“Virginia has been cleared three days in a row, which is really good. It is five days in a row before they can come back to any kind of practice situation. Today was day three that she’s passed, so we’re hopeful now that we’re moving in the right direction and that she’ll be back for us at least in practice by the end of the week.”
Tomorrow’s game will be televised on Mediacom with Rob Brooks and Shelley Till calling the action.