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Women’s basketball team can make a statement this week

BY MATT COZZI | JANUARY 24, 2011 7:10 AM

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If this isn’t a make or break week for the Iowa women’s basketball team, it’s close.

Seven teams in the Big Ten have a record of .500 or better, leaving the conference up for grabs with a majority of league games still to play.

No. 12 Michigan State sits atop the conference standings, and No. 18 Iowa and No. 25 Ohio State are just two games behind the Spartans.

And wouldn’t you know it — the Hawkeyes face off against the current conference leader and their closest foe this week, an immense opportunity for Iowa to set itself apart from the Buckeyes, Spartans, and the four other teams that are legitimate contenders for the Big Ten title.

The Hawkeyes (15-4, 3-3 Big Ten) will travel to Columbus to take on Ohio State (12-6, 3-3) today at 6 p.m. CST. They will play Michigan State (18-2, 6-1) on Thursday. Those contests are on ESPN2 and Big Ten Network, respectively.



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Senior Kachine Alexander understands the significance of this week for Iowa, considering the squad has already played this week’s opponents earlier this season. The Hawkeyes defeated Ohio State, 89-76, on Jan. 8 in Carver-Hawkeye Arena and lost on a last-second shot to Michigan State, 63-60, in East Lansing, Mich.

“We pretty much play the top couple of teams right off the bat,” Alexander said. “Which is nice, because we can get them out of the way and go through the rest of the Big Ten. At the same time, you got to stay focused and you got to keep pushing.”

In the Hawkeyes’ first matchup with the Buckeyes — who boast All-American Jantel Lavender and a feisty point guard in Samantha Prahalis — solid shooting was the key to victory. Iowa posted season-highs in field-goal (.492) and 3-point (.421) percentages.

Head coach Lisa Bluder said her squad did a good job limiting Lavender’s inside game and Prahalis’ outside shooting, and she would like to place an emphasis on that yet again in the second meeting between the two ranked teams.

“You’re probably not going to stop them both,” Bluder said. “I think that’s really hard to do. I think we’ve got to contest the 3-point shooters, because the rest of them really open up the inside. If they’re [making the 3-pointer], hopefully we can get out and contest the shooters if we play zone again, which we will [do].”

Jaime Printy led Iowa in that game with 25 points, and she led all scorers in the Hawkeyes’ most recent win, a 71-51 tally over Indiana on Jan. 16. The 5-11 guard recorded 18 points against the Hoosiers.

While Bluder said Iowa had trouble getting in a flow against Indiana, Printy said the 20-point thrashing is beneficial with 10 Big Ten games remaining.

“Any team you beat in double figures is a great win in the Big Ten,” Printy said. “So I definitely think that will help us down the road.”

Because of the unusual eight-day layoff between games, Bluder said, the additional practice time could be an advantage at this point in the season.

Iowa hopes the extra repetitions pay dividends this week — it could be in second place before hitting the road again to play Illinois on Jan. 30.

“It’s [a big week], but every week in this conference is big,” Printy said. “You never know who’s going to get beat when or what’s going to happen, but I definitely think we are all really excited. We know we’re playing two great teams, and we’ll need to play two great games in order to win.”


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