Jan. 28, 2012
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By ADAM MEIER
IOWA CITY, Iowa — The University of Iowa women’s basketball team got the signature victory it was looking for Saturday on Mediacom Court inside Carver-Hawkeye arena, defeating 13th-ranked Purdue, 59-42, and halting the Boilermakers’ 11-game winning streak.
It was Purdue’s first loss in Big Ten Conference play, dropping it to 8-1 and 18-4 overall. The Hawkeyes posted their first victory over a ranked team, and it improved the team’s record to 12-10 overall and 4-5 in Big Ten action.
“I can’t tell you what a happy locker room that was,” said UI head coach Lisa Bluder. “They deserved it. I’m so happy for this group because it’s been a tough January. You play eight teams that are in the top-25, and we finally got one.”
Unlike many of the Hawkeyes’ victories that came via high-powered scoring, Saturday’s win over Purdue can be credited to scrappy defense, a strong showing on the boards and solid contributions from the bench.
“It’s funny we won in probably three areas you wouldn’t pick us a month ago to win on: rebounds, defense and our bench,” said Bluder. “We’re going to enjoy this one.”
Iowa out rebounded Purdue, 54-38, and held the Boilermakers to 14-of-60 shooting (23.3 percent) for the game. The Hawkeye bench added 16 points to the effort.
Over nine minutes had passed in the game, and the Hawkeyes had managed just three points on 1-of-12 shooting and trailed by eight.
Still down and seemingly playing with a lid on the basket, Iowa needed a spark. It got what it was looking for from a pair of Hawkeyes off the bench. Redshirt sophomore Theairra Taylor entered the game and knocked down a contested baseline jumper to bring the deficit to 13-7 with 9:03 left in the half. Later, freshman Virginia Johnson made her impact with two driving layups, making the score 17-14 with 4:35 remaining in the half.
Taylor and Johnson each ended the game with six points and six rebounds.
“I’m extremely happy for Virginia; coming in and playing that well,” Bluder said. “Theairra, nobody deserves it more than Theairra.”
“I was focusing on last game where I was basically standing out there and clogging things up for all the players,” said Taylor. “I knew coming into this game I was going to try to at least open it up by putting the ball on the ground.
“It feels really good, especially to play with these seniors. It means a lot to be able to go out there and contribute.”
The quick contributions from Taylor and Johnson energized the arena and the Hawkeyes. Iowa continued cutting into the deficit during the final minutes of the first half. A Jaime Printy 3-pointer with 3:06 left in the period cut the Purdue lead to 19-17.
The Hawkeyes then ended the half with a 6-0 run, which began with another Virginia Johnson driving layup and ended with an acrobatic bank shot from Taylor that gave the Iowa a 23-21 lead heading into the locker room.
Iowa started the second half with the same energy they ended the first with.
A Kamille Wahlin 3-pointer with 17:40 left was quickly followed with a charging foul on Purdue’s Brittany Rayburn that was drawn by Morgan Johnson. The Hawkeyes capitalized on the Boilermaker turnover and grabbed a 31-23 lead on the ensuing possession on another Wahlin long ball.
Junior Morgan Johnson led the Hawkeyes with 17 points on 6-of-7 shooting, while grabbing 11 rebounds and blocking three shots. Wahlin scored 13 points and played 38-of-40 minutes.
“We needed it (the win),” said Wahlin. “We finally got over that hump of getting a good team. It will give us a lot of confidence going into our next game. It’s a relief and a good feeling that we finally got a good win.”
After Purdue surged back to within three points with 11 minutes remaining, the Hawkeyes responded with a 10-0 run that was capped by a pair of Kelly Krei free throws to extend their lead to 50-37 with 6:02 left to play.
Wahlin then put the game out of reach a few minutes later when she hit a mid-range jumper as the shot clock expired to make the score 54-38 with 3:46 remaining.
“We need to grow off this win,” said Bluder. “We’re going to play two games on the road this week. We understand what it’s like to play on the road now. This win, in my opinion, is really going to help us get through these two road games that we can hopefully make into victories.”
“Iowa is a lot better than its record,” said Purdue head coach Sharon Versyp. “I know they’ve been in some really close games. They really needed to win today for a lot of different reasons.”
The Hawkeyes return to action on Thursday night when they travel to Madison to face Wisconsin. Tipoff is scheduled for 7 p.m. (CT).