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Commentary: Bluder’s Bunch overcomes numerous injuries

BY JORDAN GARRETSON | DECEMBER 01, 2009 7:20 AM

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Injuries happen.

A team that hopes none of its players will suffer an injury is simply foolish. The important part is how a team copes with those hurdles.

The Iowa women’s basketball team is providing a pretty good example.

Injury first struck the team days before the program’s exhibition against Washburn on Nov. 8 — about as seriously as one could imagine.

The Hawkeyes’ lone senior, JoAnn Hamlin, was sidelined for the contest.

Just days later, Iowa head coach Lisa Bluder announced Hamlin would be out indefinitely with a major blood clot in her right leg. The 10th-year head coach also said sophomore Hannah Draxten, another expected starter, would also be out with a herniated disk in her back.

Just like that, Iowa was down two starters without even playing a regular-season game.

But how did the Hawkeyes respond?

They defeated Santa Clara and Illinois State on their way to winning the KCRG-TV9 Hawkeye Challenge.

“Bluder’s Bunch” was also without freshmen Gabby Machado and Theairra Taylor, leaving the group with eight players to challenge No. 18 Kansas on Nov. 18. Iowa battled the Jayhawks to a 66-55 loss, leading by as much as three points with fewer than seven minutes remaining.

Things looked as though they would turn out all right for the Hawkeyes, but the news only got worse.

Superstar junior Kachine Alexander, who led the Hawkeyes with 21.0 points per game and 15.7 rebounds per game in the team’s first three contests, was next to be bitten by the injury bug — hard.

On Nov. 20, Bluder announced “Kach” would be on the shelf for about a month with a stress fracture in her right leg.

But how did the Hoopsters respond?

Sophomore point guard Kamille Wahlin combined for 53 points in a pair of wins over Northern Iowa and William & Mary.

Then, on Nov. 27, Wahlin launched a buzzer-beating bomb against West Virginia that would have sent the game to overtime.

The shot was blocked, and Iowa lost, 69-66.

And how did Iowa respond this time?

Well, if you’ve been reading, you already know.

The next day, Wahlin drained a shot from distance with 16 seconds remaining to seize a 72-69 victory over Columbia in Reno, Nev.

Now, the Hawkeyes may still stand as one of the most bruised teams in America — but they also stand with an impressive 5-2 overall record.

With four of Iowa’s next five games slated to take place in Carver-Hawkeye Arena, the Hawkeyes should be in good shape before their Big Ten road-opener at Penn State on Dec. 28.

The adversity the team has faced early in the season has certainly hindered Bluder’s club thus far, but come March, it may prove to be Iowa’s biggest asset.

With so many closely contested battles under the team’s belt, it’s safe to say the Hawkeyes still have at least a few more thrillers left in them. And when the Big Ten and NCAA Tournaments arrive, heart-halting duels such as these will be the norm.

But with a healthy Alexander and company, Iowa will be more than prepared to take on any challenge that comes its way.


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