Commentary: Iowa’s last second win a cause for concern

BY JON FRANK | FEBRUARY 11, 2011 7:10 AM

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Iowa’s most consistent characteristic this season has been its befuddling inconsistency.

One game, the Hawkeye women’s basketball players shoot lights out and post a 20-point win. The bigs come up with all the boards, the perimeter players throw daggers, and the chemistry is unbelievably sound.

The next game, they forget how to box out, or they forget how to pass. Or worse yet, the 3-point shooting — a staple for Lisa Bluder’s squads — dips somewhere near 10 percent.

Iowa’s 64-62 win against Minnesota on Thursday at Carver-Hawkeye Arena was the perfect example of a team suffering from an identity crisis.

After an abysmal first half, the Hawkeyes trailed, 28-24. They came out firing in the second period and went on a 10-3 run.

All seemed well in Hawkeye Nation.

But the burst of brilliant play didn’t last long, and Bluder’s Bunch found itself in a back-and-forth dogfight with a Big Ten bottom-feeder. The contest was up for grabs until a last-second lay-up by do-it-all guard senior Kachine Alexander.

They won, sure. But this game probably should have been a blowout.

It doesn’t matter that the Golden Gophers were on a three-game winning streak and Iowa had dropped its last two. A talented roster should easily handle an inferior opponent at home. No exceptions.

They could easily fix the problem, if only they could figure out where to start.

“If it was one area that I could put my finger on and say, ‘OK, this is the area that we need to improve on for us to be successful,’ it would be so much easier for us,” Bluder said in a press conference on Tuesday. “Right now, it’s like one game we do poor in the turnovers, the next game we do really well in the turnovers. This game we do great in free throws, the next game we don’t do well in free throws.”

Her team got the W, but the 11th year Iowa coach has plenty to be concerned about.Her team gave up 12 second-chance points and was out-rebounded 38-31.

This is the same team that was picked to finish second in the Big Ten by the league’s media as well as its coaches. The same team that has a Wooden Watch semifinalist in its starting lineup. The same team that rallied and won 11 of its final 14 Big Ten games after dropping five of the first six last season.

By all rights they should be more consistent, more dominant. Sophomore Jaime Printy is a talented shooter, most of the time. Sophomore center Morgan Johnson has shown that she can play defense.

Junior Kamille Wahlin is a pleasantly reliable point guard. And Alexander is a force of nature on both ends of the ball.

And yet, they continue to struggle in games they should win easily.

If the mediocre performances continue, the Hawkeyes may as well kiss their hopes of an NCAA Tournament bid goodbye. They won’t be able to squeak by the remainder of their schedule with last-second wins.

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