Hawkeyes continue to struggle in conference play

BY JON FRANK | FEBRUARY 07, 2011 7:10 AM

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The Hawkeyes (17-7, 5-6) had their chances but ultimately failed to come back Sunday in Carver-Hawkeye Arena, falling 82-75.

No. 20 Iowa lost to Penn State (20-5, 9-2) for the second time in conference play this season. It was also Iowa’s second straight Big Ten loss.

Trailing 70-62 with 2:40 left, sophomore guard Jaime Printy drove to the baseline for a quick lay-up, cutting the deficit to 6. A Nittany Lion turnover ended with another Hawkeye lay-up, this time from senior guard Kachine Alexander. Lisa Bluder’s squad was unable to close the 70-66 gap any further, however, after another lay-up by Printy was waved off because of an offensive foul.

“You can’t let the refs determine the game,” said Printy, who scored 20 points in Sunday’s loss. “It was a good, hard take, but we obviously didn’t get the call, so that’s where we needed to come back and just get a stop and try again.”

Bluder’s Bunch had numerous opportunities to claim the lead, but the Hawks were never able to get within 2 points of the conference-leading squad.

After shooting an abysmal 33 percent from the field, the Hawkeyes slumped back to the locker room trailing 44-32.

They were out-shot, out-rebounded, and dominated in the post. Iowa center sophomore Morgan Johnson, who finished the game with 2 points, was a nonfactor on offense.

Iowa returned to the hardwood in an effort to chop away at the Penn State lead. The team’s shooting improved dramatically, and Alexander, Printy, and junior Kamille Wahlin combined for 36 of Iowa’s 43 second-half points.

But offensive adjustments weren’t enough. The Hawkeyes — who allowed 16 second-chance points — failed to execute their transition defense and regularly allowed the Nittany Lions to respond to 3-pointers and lay-ups with easy baskets of their own.

“We just couldn’t keep them off the boards,” Bluder said. “We gave up too many second-shot opportunities, too many points in transition. And, unfortunately, that resulted in the loss today.”

The home defeat effectively eliminates Iowa’s aspirations of winning the Big Ten title. And with only five games left before the conference tournament, Iowa’s margin for error continues to shrink.

“Somehow, we each need to each take it personal and start competing a lot more [to start winning],” said Wahlin, who led the attack with 24 points and broke the 1,000 career point mark Sunday.

“That’s how the Big Ten is. It’s a lot better this year, and it’s whoever wants it more and whoever wants to compete the hardest.”

Throughout the 2010-11 campaign, Bluder’s Bunch has shown halves of greatness, halves of impotence, and entire showings of inconsistency.

“[Sunday’s] second half is how we are,” said Alexander, who racked up 17 of her team’s 35 rebounds. “Our team is starting to understand.”

The Minneapolis native left the game early in the first half after coming down hard on her left leg after converting a lay-up. She returned to play in the majority of the contest, though she wore a boot on her left foot for precautionary reasons following the game.

“Penn State is a good team,” Bluder said. “They showed us why they’re No. 1 in our conference. They can just score at will.”

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