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Women’s basketball limping into Champaign

BY JORDAN GARRETSON | JANUARY 21, 2010 7:30 AM

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If tonight’s chances for the Iowa women’s basketball team to halt a four-game losing streak weren’t slim enough, it just became even more daunting.

The Hawkeyes (8-10, 1-6) will try to snap that skid when they play Illinois (11-6, 3-4) at 7 p.m. in Champaign.

Iowa will most likely face that hurdle without the services of sophomore Kamille Wahlin.

On Tuesday, Iowa head coach Lisa Bluder announced her starting point guard would be questionable for Thursday’s game. The Crookston, Minn., native has been suffering from back spasms since the team’s shootaround on Jan. 14 prior to the Hawkeyes’ game against Penn State.

Even if Wahlin is able to play, Bluder said, she “might be a body, but she’s probably going to be about 50 percent.”

Fifty percent or not, Wahlin’s injury is devastating to an injury-riddled team.

Junior Kachine Alexander made it clear: Iowa will miss more than just the 14.0 points and 3.0 assists that Wahlin averaged while starting all 18 games this season.

“I don’t know what to say,” Alexander said. “She’s our floor general. She’s everything to our team.”

A fallen starting point guard may be cause for panic on other teams. For Iowa, though, it seems disturbingly normal. The Hawkeyes have lost three players for the season.

Despite being in the midst of her most challenging year during her Iowa tenure, the 10th-year head coach refuses to make excuses.

“Now, we’ve just had things that I’ve never really seen before this year,” Bluder said. “Odd injuries, again, what do you do? You just can’t control these things. You can’t look in a crystal ball and see that they’re going to happen.

“You just have to keep moving along and do the best you can. There are just not a lot of other options.”

The options are virtually minimal at this point. Enter freshman guard Trisha Nesbitt.

Bluder said the Ames native will take over as the primary replacement at lead guard. Nesbitt is averaging 2.7 points in 19.0 minutes a game through seven Big Ten contests, primarily subbing in to relieve Wahlin and fellow freshman Jaime Printy.

“I am [ready to go],” Nesbitt said. “I feel like all of us will be ready to pick up the extra slack, and all the pressure won’t be put on me. Of course, a lot of [the pressure] will be just because I’ll be coming in for her position.”

Alexander emphasized the confidence she has in Nesbitt to step in for Wahlin if need be.

“I have all the faith in Trisha to be able to step up,” she said. “She’s been behind Kamille this whole entire way and all summer, and Kamille’s taught her a lot. I think she’ll be OK.”

Unfortunately for Iowa, the team’s fifth chance at its first Big Ten road victory of the season won’t come against the same Illinois team that went 10-21 last year.

Instead, Bluder’s bunch will be challenged by an immensely improved Fighting Illini squad, particularly when trying to score.

“They’re not scoring a lot of points, but their defense is just unbelievable,” Bluder said. “They just have the ability to turn it on when they want to turn it on. It’s like you kind of get used to playing one pace, and all of a sudden they can intensify that pace — that denial defense and that on-ball defense. Anyone of them can do that, so I think that’s the biggest difference in them.”


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