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Hoopsters ride thrilling comeback

BY MIKE BROWNLEE | FEBRUARY 16, 2009 7:50 AM

It took the biggest comeback in program history, but the Iowa women’s basketball team beat Penn State, 63-57, Sunday afternoon in State College, Pa.

Up by two late, the Hawkeyes (16-9, 9-5) got a Wendy Ausdemore 3-pointer with 19 seconds left and four Kachine Alexander free throws in the final eight seconds to seal the victory. The free throws finished up an epic turnaround for Iowa, which trailed by as many as 20 in the second half.

A jumper by Penn State’s Julia Trogele to open the second half extended the Lady Lions’ 18-point first half lead and appeared to be a continuation of Penn State’s first half dominance.

A Tyra Grant lay-up with 16:19 left put the Penn State lead at 18 points. Iowa would hold the Lady Lions scoreless over the next 5:41, going on a 12-0 run to get back in the game.

The Hawkeyes took their first lead since early in the opening half on an Ausdemore lay-up with 5:38 to play, From there, the two teams stayed within two points of each other until Ausdemore’s late 3-pointer.

“When we got to within 10 points, I thought [Penn State] started to get rattled,” Iowa point guard Kristi Smith told Penn State media. “We needed to chip away at the lead and play solid defense.”

Smith led Iowa with 21 points, and she was the only Hawkeye in double-figures at the half.

The Hawkeyes were sluggish during the first 20 minutes, giving up 13 offensive rebounds and 17 second-chance points. Iowa shored up the boards after the break, allowing zero second-chance points in the second half.

“It was a pathetic first half on our part. We were nonexistent,” Iowa head coach Lisa Bluder said during a postgame radio interview. “The rebounding in the second half was the difference for us.”

Ausdemore and Alexander both came up huge for Iowa in the second half. Ausdemore scored 15 points and grabbed a career-high 12 rebounds, with nine coming in the second frame. Alexander had all goose eggs on the stat sheet at halftime, with zero points and rebounds, but finished the game with a double-double of 11 points and 10 boards.

“They really stepped up their play in the second half,” Bluder said.

Grant led all scorers with 26 points for Penn State, but was held to only six second-half points.

“She’s a great player,” Iowa assistant coach Shannon Gage said during a postgame radio interview.

“We wanted to take her out of the game. It was a team effort, our guards did a great job of communicating and our posts did a great job of identifying shooters.”

The biggest Hawkeye comeback prior to Sunday came in the quarterfinals of the 2001 Big Ten Tournament. Iowa overcame an 18-point deficit against Indiana on its way to winning the tournament crown.

With the victory, Iowa holds on to fifth place in the Big Ten.


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