March 18, 2012
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By ADAM MEIER
NOTRE DAME, Ind. — The string of tough draws in the NCAA Tournament continued for head coach Lisa Bluder’s University of Iowa women’s basketball team.
It turned out that the matchup with the eighth-seeded California Golden Bears was as difficult as anticipated and the ninth-seeded Hawkeyes fell Sunday, 84-74, in Purcell Pavillion.
The Hawkeyes trailed by double-digits for much of the second half, but a senior-led charge brought Iowa back to within striking distance late in the game. Senior Kelly Krei started the comeback by hitting two free throws to cut the deficit to 12 points with 2:55 left. On Iowa’s next possession, senior Kamille Wahlin drove to the basket for a layup and followed with a 3-pointer on the next possession to bring the score to 78-71 with 1:35 left to play.
Krei then knocked down another 3-pointer with 1:14 left that brought the Hawkeyes the closest they had been in the second half at 80-74. However, Iowa was unable to convert in the final minute and time ran out on the Hawkeyes.
“That’s what we expect out of the Hawkeyes,” Bluder said. “To keep going no matter what, no matter what the situation is. That’s kind of been the story of us this year. We don’t give up. Never back down; never think you’re out of it. That was the case again today with this game.”
Wahlin and Krei did all they could to prolong their Hawkeye careers, but in the end, their efforts weren’t enough.
Wahlin led the Hawkeyes with 15 points and four assists. Krei ended the game with 14 points, including three 3-pointers.
“Kelly and Kamille have put in so much time,” Bluder said. “Kamille’s been a starter since her freshman year; Kelly since her sophomore year. They’ve played in so many games. But they’ve also down everything else well. They’ve excelled in the classroom, the weight room, and as leaders. You can’t ask for people to epitomize what you want out of your student-athletes more than Kelly Krei or Kamille Wahlin.”
The Hawkeyes started the game off well, grabbing a 19-16 lead after a Bethany Doolittle layup with 11:10 left in the first half. California’s full-court press and high-pressure defense then began to give the Iowa ball handlers fits. The Golden Bears used their aggressive defense to spark a 16-2 run over a five minute span.
An up-and-under move by Johnson with 5:45 remaining in the half trimmed the deficit to 32-23. Krei then hit a 3-pointer that cut California’s lead to eight and one minute later Theairra Taylor got open under the hoop for a layup to make the score 34-29 with 4:06 to play in the half.
Taylor added a huge effort off the bench, scoring 14 points on 6-of-7 shooting, while pulling in six rebounds.
“I’m so happy for Theairra,” Bluder said. “This was a great way for her to end her sophomore year. She can use this as momentum for her next two years. I’m very happy with the way she played today. She played with a lot of confidence and she matched their athleticism out there.”
The Hawkeyes were unable to climb any closer in the first period and trailed 42-33 at halftime.
The second half started with a Johnson layup to bring Cal’s lead to seven points but Iowa struggled to slow down the Golden Bears’ fast-paced offense and the game began to slip away from the Hawkeyes.
California led by as many as 16 points in the second half and the Hawkeyes couldn’t get to within single-digits until just 1:34 remained.
The Golden Bears were led by Brittany Boyd, who ended the game with 15 points, eight assists and six rebounds.
Iowa shot 30-of-59 (50.8 percent) from the field, but was plagued with 18 turnovers which led to 27 points for California. The Golden Bears shot 30-of-66 (45.5 percent) from the field and 21-of-30 from the foul line, compared to Iowa’s 9-of-10.
The Hawkeyes finish the season at 19-12 while California improves to 25-9 overall.
Wahlin broke Iowa’s school record for career games played Sunday. Wahlin played in 127 career games, topping Johanna Solverson’s record of 126…Iowa broke its own Big Ten record for free throw percentage, finishing the season at 79.4 percent (446-567). The previous school and Big Ten record was 79.2 percent, set during the 2008-09 season…Taylor scored a season-high 14 points and played a season-high 26 minutes against California on Sunday…Logic registered her seventh double-double of the season with 11 points and 11 assists. Her 11 assists tied a career-high, and also tied Iowa’s record for assists in an NCAA Tournament game (Jolette Law vs. USC in 1988)…Wahlin finished her Hawkeye career with 1,473 points (eighth at Iowa), 231 3-pointers (second) and 427 assists (third)…Krei finished her Hawkeye career with 870 points and 162 3-pointers (sixth).