Hawkeye women get crucial road win

BY MATT COZZI | JANUARY 31, 2011 7:10 AM

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Letdown avoided.

On Sunday, the No. 18 Iowa women’s basketball team prevailed against Illinois to win its second conference game in a row and fifth overall following an immense upset of No. 10 Michigan State on Jan. 27.

In a mostly back-and-forth game, the Hawkeyes pulled away with fewer than 10 minutes to play in the second half and defeated the Illini, 80-69, in Assembly Hall in Champaign.

Prior to Sunday’s matchup, players harped on the fact that they must continue with their hot hand and avoid a letdown against Illinois (7-15, 2-7).

Iowa (17-5, 5-4) relied on its hot shooting to get the victory — Lisa Bluder’s squad shot a season-best 52 percent from the field, 8-of-12 from beyond the arc.

For the Hawkeyes, their zone defense was a strength, limiting the Illini to just 35 percent shooting from the field. Illinois had just two players record 11 or more points.

“I thought our zone was pretty good in the second half,” Bluder said. “I think we did a pretty good job moving in the zone; we had a couple of traps that made them a little bit nervous. Basically, they didn’t hit from the outside too much against our zone.”

With around two minutes to go in the second half, the Hawkeyes relied on that zone, shutting Illinois down on consecutive possessions when it led by just four. Bluder attributed those defensive stops to the somewhat pro-Iowa crowd. Associate head coach Jan Jensen said on her Twitter account there were two busloads of Iowa fans that made the trip to Champaign.

“It was good energy, we want to play hard for our fans,” Bluder said. “They drove over here for this game, and we appreciate it, so we wanted to get them a good win and acknowledge them after the game.”

The Hawkeyes will have some things to improve upon when they get back to Iowa City.

Jensen summed up her thoughts postgame via Twitter, which included her assessment of the Hawkeyes’ ball handling: It can get better.

The associate head coach also praised sophomore center Morgan Johnson’s performance — 17 points and 13 rebounds. The double-double is the ninth of her career and sixth of the season.

Senior Kachine Alexander led the Hawkeyes with 19 points, and Jaime Printy had 17. The sophomore has now posted 11 straight double-digit scoring games.

After the win against the Spartans on Jan. 27, Alexander said she was aware of the significance of traveling to play to Illinois — the Hawkeyes also won in Champaign last season.

“We have definitely been talking about it,” Alexander said. “Just throughout the team just saying, ‘Guys, remember, we are going back to Illinois’… Like Coach [Bluder] says, it’s always fun going back to a gym where you’ve had previous success.”

Iowa certainly repeated that success on Sunday, getting an important win away from Iowa City. The Hawkeyes will hit the hardwood again on Thursday at Purdue.

“Anytime you win on the road in the Big Ten, it’s a big win for the program,” Bluder said. “I’m happy with the balance of our team, and I’m just glad we got out of here with a win.”

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