Commentary: Close win can vault the Hawkeye women

BY MATT COZZI | JANUARY 28, 2011 7:10 AM

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Déjà vu flashed through the fans’ and players’ minds on Thursday night.

Kalisha Keane was going to make another shot at the buzzer to lift Michigan State to victory over the Iowa women’s basketball team. On Jan. 13, Keane’s shot put a dagger in Hawkeye fans’ hearts everywhere. The same situation looked to be inevitable — in Carver-Hawkeye Arena no less.

But it didn’t.

Kachine Alexander was able to get a hand on the ball and block it just enough — no — tip it — just enough. The 5-9 senior, guarding the 6-1 Keane, thanked her finger nails for that.

“That’s why I got these,” Alexander said as she flashed her nails before a laughing press room after the game.

Following the miss, the Spartans got the rebound and had another attempt to at least advance to an overtime period. The shot didn’t fall though, and the Hawkeyes prevailed, 66-64.

For a game that just could not be predicted at any moment — there were seven lead changes and the score was tied nine times — the announced crowd of 4,550 was buzzing throughout, and the fans certainly didn’t leave disappointed.

Yes, the tables were turned on Thursday, a classic example of how anything can happen in women’s college basketball — at any time.

Funny how the same can be said for the Big Ten standings this season, as the contenders remain jumbled at the halfway point.

Despite the Hawkeyes’ average Big Ten record (4-4) through the first half of the conference season, there is something to be said about the win over the Spartans. Some would even call it a statement game.

The Hawkeyes have already played the two behemoths of the conference — Ohio State and Michigan State — so Lisa Bluder’s squad can only look up with eight league games remaining.

Iowa can still separate itself from other league foes, especially after Thursday’s game. If the Hawkeyes keep playing as they did against Michigan State for the rest of the conference season and into the Big Ten Tournament — relying on their exceptional shooting ability and intensity — they will be a forced to be reckoned with.

They made it to the Big Ten championship game last year, and every scholarship player from that roster is still wearing Black and Gold. And don’t forget about Iowa’s usually reliable bench. While the reserves aren’t consistent scoring threats, they make up for it with defense.

There is no reason to think they can’t make it just as far again, and if they make it deep into the Big Ten tournament, watch out.

This win — a swift answer after a 14-point loss to Ohio State — characterizes what the Hawkeyes are capable of. It was Iowa’s turn to win the close bout with Michigan State this time around, and it was no secret after the game that the players were satisfied with the victory.

Revenge is sweet.

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