Women’s basketball holds on against Illinois


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The Hawkeyes almost broke their own hearts on Valentine’s Day.

Up by as many as 30 points at one point and leading 47-20 at halftime, the Iowa women’s basketball team appeared to have the game in control.

Instead, Illinois chipped away — outscoring Iowa 47-30 in the second half — almost completing the comeback.

However, the Hawkeyes (14-11, 7-7) managed to hold on, defeating the Fighting Illini (13-12, 5-10), 77-67, in Carver-Hawkeye Arena. The win moved Iowa back to .500 in conference play and into fifth place in the Big Ten standings.

“You worry when you have that big of a lead at halftime. You really caution yourself about a letdown,” Iowa head coach Lisa Bluder said. “I think that happened to our team. And it’s going to happen with young teams. … We just kind of checked out a little bit and didn’t keep the focus. So hopefully, we’re going to learn from this.”

Junior Kachine Alexander had 24 points, freshman Jaime Printy had 17, and sophomore Kamille Wahlin added 16.

One key to Iowa’s success was 3-point shooting — the Hawks shot 54.5 percent on 12-of-22 from long distance in the game.

The Hawkeyes were 9-of-16 from behind the arc in the first half, and Printy hit three-consecutive 3-pointers to give Iowa a 31-8 edge. The Hawkeyes rank second in the Big Ten in 3-point shooting.

“Everybody in the league knows when you look at Iowa, you think about their great 3-point shooting,” Illinois head coach and former Hawkeye Jolette Law said. “They don’t dribble penetrate, they would rather take the 3 than the 2, and we knew that preparing for this team.”

A sloppy start saw turnovers on both sides. However, the Hawkeyes were up 11-6, before using a 25-6 run to take a commanding lead with 5:52 in the first half.

During the second half, Iowa opened up with a Wahlin 3-pointer to give the Hawkeyes a 50-20 lead.

However, Illinois went on a 44-18 run to get within 68-64 with 3:30 left in the contest.

Sensing a need to calm her team, Bluder called a time-out.

The last three minutes saw both teams struggle offensively, with Alexander picking up the rebounds after freshman center Morgan Johnson fouled out.

“I felt like we lost our intensity in the second half,” Alexander said. “Illinois had the intensity, so the momentum shifted, and we needed to get that back.”

The 5-9 junior was fouled and went to the free-throw line 10 times in the final 2:45 of the game, hitting 9-of-10 and helping Iowa maintain the lead.

“When you talk about heart and determination, [Kachine] was determined she was going to get the rebounds,” Law said. “I just think, late in the game, she willed the team to win. It just seemed like every time we needed to foul, she had the ball in her hands.”

This is the sixth win out of the last seven for Iowa. Law, a Hawkeye basketball player from 1986-90, acknowledged the mental toughness of both sides and said she didn’t mind seeing her former team have some success.

“It just seemed like after they beat us the first time, we woke them up,” she said. “I was just like, ‘Wow, come on Lisa, we don’t have to do it like that.’ But I’m happy for them because after they beat us, they went on a 5-1 [winning streak]. They’re just playing with a great deal of Hawkeye pride.”

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