Two freshmen step into starting lineup


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Iowa women’s basketball head coach Lisa Bluder was excited about the potential of her freshman class.

Never did she think she would have to rely upon it this quickly, though.

With a bulging disc in sophomore Hannah Draxten’s back and a blood clot in senior JoAnn Hamlin’s right leg, Bluder is forced to turn to youth. In absence of their injured teammates, freshmen Jaime Printy and Morgan Johnson will step into the starting lineup for the KCRG-TV9 Hawkeye Challenge this weekend.

Iowa will open its regular season on Saturday with the first game of the challenge against Santa Clara (1-0) at Carver-Hawkeye Arena beginning at noon.

The Hawkeyes will play either Illinois State or UCLA on Nov. 15 at 2 p.m.

The challenge opens an eight-day stretch in which Iowa will play four games, with 20th-ranked Kansas visiting Iowa City on Nov. 18. “Bluder’s Bunch” will then play Northern Iowa in Cedar Falls on Nov. 22.

“We’ve lost two starters in the course of a couple of days here, so it’s a tough blow for our team,” Bluder said during Wednesday’s press conference. “Especially going into this tough stretch that we have to begin this year.”

Bluder expects Draxten’s injury to keep her on the shelf for only about a week. Hamlin’s condition has her out indefinitely. Whatever the case may be, both Printy and Johnson are ready to accept their new roles.

“[Hamlin] was definitely a great mentor for me,” Johnson said. “She’s a bigger role than just a part of our team, and I think that’s the hardest part right now. Everything I’ve learned so far from her, I think, I can apply it to what I need to do from here on out.”

If Sunday’s exhibition against Washburn was any indication, both newcomers should be more than viable cogs in the Hawkeye machine.

Johnson scored eight points and collected seven boards. The 6-5 center also returned six Washburn shots to sender.

Printy also had eight points and dished out six assists.

Perhaps more impressively, the duo totaled just one turnover in 52 combined minutes of play.

“I thought [Johnson] did some nice things,” Bluder said following the exhibition. “I don’t remember the last time one person had six blocked shots in one of our games.

“[Printy], I thought, was very mature on the floor. I thought you could not tell she was a freshman.”

Bluder isn’t pleased with the increased responsibility she has to place on her young players’ shoulders, but as she said on Wednesday, “It’s what we’re going to have to ask.”

The loss of Hamlin, the team’s lone senior, means the Hawkeyes are down to just two upperclassmen in juniors Kelsey Cermak and Kachine Alexander. Alexander, who already serves as the team’s “go-to” player, now also assumes the team’s main leadership role.

Alexander acknowledges that. The 5-9 guard views the now-inevitable doubts by outsiders as extra motivation.

“It’s just going to bring us together as a team,” said Alexander, who scored 25 points in just 28 minutes of play against Washburn. “Knowing that, OK, we do not have our starting center and our only senior. We’re just going to have to come together even more than we were before in order to produce and be successful.”

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