Women's basketball 'finally' gets over the hump

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

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A sense of relief filled the air at Carver-Hawkeye Arena following the women's basketball game between Iowa and Purdue on Jan. 28.


The Hawkeyes (12-10, 4-5 Big Ten) used a 59-42 victory to snap the No. 13 Boilermakers' 11-game winning streak. Iowa also broke its seven-game losing streak against teams ranked in the top 25, dating all the way back to the Black and Gold being ousted from the NCAA Tournament by then-No. 20 Gonzaga on March 19, 2011.

"I can't tell you what a happy locker room that was, and they deserved it," head coach Lisa Bluder said after the win over Purdue. "I'm so happy for this group because it's been a tough January — you play [six] teams that are in the top 25, and we finally got one. You get through so many games where it's 'could have,' 'should have,' 'almost,' and it wears on you. Sometimes, it can defeat teams."

Bluder said she was proud of the way her team handled the pressure and that the players' belief in themselves never faltered.

"This win — we needed it," said senior point guard Kamille Wahlin, who scored 13 points in the contest. "It means a lot, because we played a top-25 team, and we finally got over that hump of getting a good team. I think we'll feed off of the confidence [gained from the win] going into our next game.

"It's almost a relief. It's a good feeling, finally getting that good win."

That relief was visible on the floor after the game, as wide smiles were everywhere when the team celebrated with fans.

In a season that has had its ups and downs, the victory was needed to keep the Hawkeyes' hopes of reaching their fifth-consecutive NCAA Tournament. Purdue head coach Sharon Versyp said Iowa is a better team that it has shown while struggling and the Hawkeyes aren't a team to overlook.

"Iowa is a lot better than its record [indicates]," she said. "I know they've had some close games; I've always so much respect for Lisa and her staff, her team. They really needed to win today."

The Black and Gold now hits the stretch run in its schedule. It sets up more favorably than the past month, with no remaining opponents currently ranked — but Bluder said her team will have to maintain its focus going forward.

"We're 4-5 in the Big Ten, so we definitely have to keep our nose to the grindstone," she said. "[The coaches] will remind [the team] of that in practice on Tuesday: 'This felt good, let's remember this feeling, let's keep it going, but we have to fight every single game.' And we understand that."

The team may also finally be getting healthy.

Senior Kalli Hansen has missed nearly two weeks with a groin injury, and freshman Melissa Dixon suffered a torn meniscus on Jan. 2 against Ohio State. Bluder said she's hopeful both will be back by the end of the week. Getting both players back should serve to bolster the team's depth, she said.

Several team members said they're focused on finishing the season strong, but for now, the Hawkeyes will savor the moment.

"We haven't had a day off after a win in a long time, so we're going to enjoy this one," Bluder said.

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