Bluder's Bunch rides bench momentum to victory

BY TORK MASON | JANUARY 30, 2012 7:20 AM

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The Iowa women's basketball team couldn't buy a basket.


Shot after shot went in-and-out, hit the back of the iron, or was tipped by a defender. At one point, the Hawkeyes had more fouls (8) than they did points (7).

That all changed in the final 5:31 of the first half of the Hawkeyes' game against No. 13 Purdue in Carver-Hawkeye Arena this past weekend. Virginia Johnson and Theairra Taylor sparked a 16-6 run to close the first 20 minutes, and the Hawkeyes were able to head into the locker room with a 23-21 lead — their first lead of the game. It was a lead they would never relinquished en route to a 59-42 victory.

Johnson scored 6 points on 3-of-3 shooting during the rally. Taylor notched 2 assists — including a kick-out to freshman Bethany Doolittle after she snagged her own offensive rebound at the 1:26 mark — and sliced her way to the rim to sink the scoop lay-up that gave the Hawkeyes a 2-point lead.
Head coach Lisa Bluder said she was pleased with her team's bench play.

"It's funny; we won in three areas you probably wouldn't have picked us to win in a month ago: rebounds, defense, and our bench [scoring]," she said. "I'm extremely happy for Virginia, coming in and playing that well. And Theairra — nobody deserves it more than Theairra."

Bluder credited Johnson and Taylor's explosiveness off the dribble for their successes off the bench, and Taylor said she made a point to do more with the ball in her hands than she did against Nebraska on Jan. 26.

"I was mainly focused on our last game, when I was just standing out there and clogging everything up for all the players," the redshirt sophomore said. "So I knew coming into this game that I was going to try to at least open it up by putting the ball on the ground and try to get some players open."

The momentum created by Johnson and Taylor carried over to the second half, where senior Kamille Wahlin and junior Morgan Johnson took over. They combined for 26 second-half points after scoring just 4 — all from Johnson — in the first half.

Wahlin wasted little time getting hot in the second stanza, hitting back-to-back 3s in the opening minutes of the half. She shot 5-of-9 from the floor in the second half to collect all of her 13 points after going 0-for-4 in the first 20 minutes.

"A good thing about basketball, I always think, is that it's two games — you have a first half and a second half," Wahlin said. "I felt like our bench players coming in, they gave us great momentum going into the locker room. When you have that momentum shift, we feed off each other as far as confidence. You just have that feeling that the next shot is always going to go down."

Morgan Johnson led all players in scoring and rebounding with 17 points and 11 of the Hawkeyes' 47 rebounds. She was able to stay out of foul trouble, and the guards were able to give her good feeds in the post in the second half, which, she said, helped build her confidence and made things easier for her as the game progressed.

Bluder stressed the need for the team to use the victory as a springboard moving forward.

"We need to grow off this win," she said. "We're going to play two games on the road this week [at Wisconsin on Thursday and at Indiana on Feb. 5] … We're not strangers to being on the road anymore, and I think our freshmen understand what it's like to play in a hostile environment. But this win is really going to help us get through these next two road games."

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