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Women’s basketball team wins fifth straight game

BY JEFF PAWOLA | FEBRUARY 27, 2009 7:30 AM

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The Iowa women’s basketball team won its fifth-consecutive game on Senior Night Thursday, defeating Illinois, 69-56, in Carver-Hawkeye Arena.

The Hawkeyes (19-9, 12-5) also won their fifth-straight game, the longest victory streak of the season, and in the meantime, moved into a tie for third place in the conference with Michigan State after the Spartans fell at home to Minnesota.

“Right now, we’re on a run … our defense is in a groove,” sophomore Kachine Alexander said. “It’s the end of the season; it’s go time. We had to come out and get it for our seniors.”

Alexander finished with her seventh double-double of the season — scoring 13 point and grabbing 11 rebounds. Seniors Wendy Ausdemore, Megan Skouby, and Kristi Smith carried their weight as well in their final regular-season game in Carver, totaling 27 points and 14 rebounds — if Iowa makes the NCAA Tournament on March 22, the Hawks will host the first two rounds in Carver.

“I think it’s great just the fact that we have so many scoring threats,” Skouby said. “When you only have one scoring threat, it’s easier to shut a team down. And clearly we have three, even so, the other members of the team can score as well.”

The Hawkeyes trailed early but grabbed the lead for good at 9-7 with a 3-pointer by freshman Kamille Wahlin with 15:12 remaining in the first half. Those were the only three points for Wahlin in the first half, but she finished with 13 points and was a major catalyst in the second half.

“[Alexander and Wahlin] are the next generation, and it’s nice that we have people that are playing who are younger with that quality,” Iowa head coach Lisa Bluder said. “It sure makes the ease of losing five seniors a little bit easier when you see your younger class man playing like they did.”

Iowa finished the first half on a 10-0 run sparked by Ausdemore, who scored six of her 10 points in the final 5:24, giving the Hawkeyes a 32-19 lead at the intermission.

The run was promptly ended at the start of the second half when Illini freshman Macie Blinn made a 3-pointer from the top of the key to cut the lead to 32-22. But Iowa answered, specifically Wahlin, scoring five-straight points and pushing the Hawkeyes’ lead to 15.

“In the first half, I wasn’t in too good a rhythm,” the freshman from Minnesota said. “The second half, in my mind, I just wanted to get back in rhythm and stay confident.”

Illinois (8-20, 4-13) cut the lead to four at 47-43 with 9:57 left in the game, following an onslaught of points by Illini junior Jenna Smith. Smith scored seven points in a two-minute span and looked to bring Illinois back in the game.

“Once we got it down to four, I think we made two crucial mistakes,” said Illinois head coach Jolette Law, a former Hawkeye basketball player. “We turned the ball over, and that’s when they smelled blood.”

Iowa capitalized and scored on its next three possessions to open up the lead up to 10 at 53-43.

“This was a must-win,” Wahlin said. “You want the seniors to go out with a win. We were going to get a win at [any] cost.”


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