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Commentary: Iowa women win games in the second half the right way

BY MATT COZZI | FEBRUARY 17, 2011 7:20 AM

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Besides postseason games, the first 20 minutes of play are usually indicative of what the outcome of a college basketball game is going to be.

Usually.

Apparently, the Iowa women’s basketball team is not familiar with this formula. Not one bit.

For the Hawkeyes, it really doesn’t matter how they perform in the first half, as long as they keep the score within “comeback” distance. Let’s say 11 points or fewer, which was the margin Lisa Bluder’s squad faced recently on Feb. 13 at Northwestern.

Iowa trailed at half in Evanston, Ill., but didn’t blink an eye in the final frame. The Hawkeyes scored a nearly record-setting 63 points after the break and went on to win with ease, 86-75.

After they shot 29 percent in the first half, the Hawkeyes improved to 70.4 percent shooting in the second half. Junior Kelly Krei paced the team in 3-pointers against the Wildcats while Iowa buried 7 of its 10 attempts from beyond the arc as a team.

Similarly, the Hawkeyes improved their shooting percentage by eight points on Feb. 10 against Minnesota. In that matchup, Iowa came back from a 4-point halftime deficit and won.

On Wednesday night — for the third-straight game — the Hawkeyes did it again. This time around, the opponent was Wisconsin. The Badgers came into the game second in the Big Ten in scoring defense.

Iowa came out a little flat to begin the game, started to make shots, then stalled. The Hawkeyes went scoreless for about five minutes midway through the half; it felt as if they wouldn’t be able to make a shot to save their lives.

Thankfully, for Kamille Wahlin and Company, that wasn’t the case. But the Hawkeyes again went without a bucket for three minutes near the end of the first half.

Didn’t matter.

This 2010-11 squad ups the ante in the final 20 minutes, and Wednesday was another prime example of that.

Four of the Hawkeyes’ five starters shot statistically (and noticeably) better from half to half.

Wahlin, who led the Hawkeyes in points for the third time this season, almost couldn’t buy a miss after halftime. The 5-8 junior was 6-of-8 from the field.

Iowa’s sophomore tandem of Jaime Printy and Morgan Johnson improved steadily and performed well near the final buzzer. When Wisconsin inched back to a 44-40 deficit after trailing by as many as 13 points at that point, Printy and Johnson aided the Hawkeyes to a 15-4 run to the end of the game.

While Bluder may not have the answer to her club’s recent second-half surges, the Hawkeyes’ play on the court does. No matter the situation — trying to mount a comeback or putting the game away — the second-half performances that Iowa has been putting together is plenty of reason to make opposing teams weary.

The first 20 minutes has no bearing on if the Hawkeyes win or lose based on their last three games. And with just two regular-season games remaining, the conference better take notice with the Big Ten Tournament looming.

The Hawkeyes are a second-half team. And so far, that’s been fine.

Forget the first half. Iowa will just beat its opponent in the second half anyway.


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