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Lady Hawks hang on in Michigan

BY JEFF PAWOLA | FEBRUARY 23, 2009 7:30 AM

The Iowa women’s basketball team won its fourth-straight game Sunday, defeating Michigan, 68-64, in Ann Arbor, Mich. The victory ties the Hawkeyes’ longest winning streak of the season; Iowa has had two other four-game winning streaks.

Iowa’s current streak started on Feb. 12 against No. 18 Ohio State, followed by victories over Penn State, Wisconsin, and now Michigan.

“It’s always big when you win on the road. After losing on the road at Minnesota [Feb. 8], we said we wanted to win the last six games heading into the Big Ten Tournament,” sophomore Kachine Alexander told the Michigan media after finishing with nine points and eight rebounds. “We know we have two tough games remaining.”

The Hawkeyes’ win, coupled with Indiana’s loss to Ohio State, clinched them a first-round bye for next month’s Big Ten Tournament. Iowa (18-9, 11-5) is ensured no worse than the No. 5 seed in Indianapolis.

Iowa got off to a hot start, scoring the first eight points and forcing Michigan to take an early time-out, only 2:49 into the game. The early lead was capped by a 3-pointer from senior Wendy Ausdemore, which followed another 3 by senior teammate Kristi Smith. Ausdemore and Smith led Iowa with 19 and 13 points.

“Our seniors showed great poise and leadership down the stretch. The seniors are rising to the top of their game,” head coach Lisa Bluder told the Michigan media. “Wendy made some clutch baskets in the final minutes [Sunday].”

Although Iowa had a wire-to-wire victory, there were moments of tension during the late stages of the game. After the Hawkeyes built their largest lead of the game, 16 points at 47-31, with fewer than 12 minutes remaining in the second half, Michigan went on a 7-0 run with 10:43 remaining.

With the lead down to nine, Smith answered with a mini-run of her own, scoring five-straight points that made the score 52-38. But the Wolverines did not go away, inching closer until they were down six, at 65-59, with 3:02 remaining. From that point, both teams went on a freeze and went 2:30 minutes without scoring, until Michigan’s Veronica Hicks cut the lead to four with :37 left.

But Iowa remained tough, and Alexander connected on free throws to seal the game.

“Kachine did an excellent job of making her free throws in the closing seconds to help us secure the victory,” Bluder said.

Bluder and associate head coach Jan Jensen thought the determining factor in Sunday’s game was the team’s defense and rebounding. Iowa out-rebounded Michigan, 50-32, and gave up only seven offensive boards that led to four points.

“If you defend and you rebound, you will allow yourself an opportunity to win games even when your offense isn’t flowing,” Jensen said in a postgame radio interview. “We were really happy to see the stats and the rebounding be as good as it was.”

The Hawkeyes have two remaining regular-season games against teams from the bottom of the standings. Ninth-place Illinois will come to Iowa City on Thursday, and last-place Northwestern will host Iowa on March 1.


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