Freshmen start strong for women’s basketball


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When senior center JoAnn Hamlin went down with a lower leg injury, it was up to Iowa’s youth to pick up the team.

Three days ago, on Nov. 6, freshman Morgan Johnson learned she would start at center for the Iowa women’s basketball squad during its exhibition game against Washburn on Sunday. With Hamlin in the hospital, head coach Lisa Bluder turned to the 6-5 freshman to fill the position.

“At first, I was really nervous because I had just gotten comfortable with my role on the team and coming off the bench for Jo,” Johnson said. “I had finally gotten around to feeling comfortable with that, and then all of a sudden, getting thrown into a new angle with [her injury].”

The Platte City, Mo., native played 29 minutes, scoring eight points, grabbing seven rebounds, and impressively blocking six shots in her début in Carver-Hawkeye Arena.

“As a freshman, to start at the center position, I thought she did some nice things,” Bluder said. “She missed some shots she’s going to make down the line. I don’t remember the last time someone’s had six blocked shots in one of our games, so that was kind of nice to see.”

The school record for most blocks in a game is seven — a feat that has only been accomplished twice in school history, with the last performance coming in 2001.

Johnson wasn’t the only freshman to see playing time. Three other newcomers also made impressive appearances in the 88-60 victory over Washburn.

The lone youngster not seeing action was St. Paul, Minn., recruit Theairra Taylor. The 5-11 guard is still recovering from a torn ACL she suffered during her final high-school game.

Bluder said she hopes to use Taylor during the KCRG-TV9 Hawkeye Challenge this weekend.

Freshman guard Jaime Printy led the Hawkeyes with six assists, scored eight points, and grabbed two steals in 24 minutes of play. Freshman guard Trisha Nesbitt finished second on the team with three assists and had three rebounds in 16 minutes, and forward Gabby Machado scored six points in eight minutes of action.

“The freshmen did such a great job of handling the game,” sophomore guard Kamille Wahlin said. “I know they were a little nervous, but that’s expected. They just came out, and they executed well.

They played confidently, and they looked really comfortable out there. It shows how hard they work each and every day in practice — they were more than ready to go, and step in, and get great minutes.”

After the Hawkeyes started the game slowly, missing their first six shots, the Iowa offense exploded for 88 points. The Hawkeyes shot 52.4 percent as a team in the exhibition win.

For junior guard Kachine Alexander, the transition to having a new set of teammates wasn’t a hard adjustment. She found herself back in the leadership position she first took last season.

“It was a whole different role with having the young girls on the team,” she said. “But it’s more about staying positive and being able to direct people. If they have questions, you’ve always got to answer them and just keeping us together and focus and patience. It’s just a little bit of a different role, but I think it worked out well today.”

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