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Commentary: Iowa a force to be reckoned with in B1G tourney

BY MATT COZZI | FEBRUARY 27, 2012 6:30 AM

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Who would have thought?

The Iowa women's basketball team (19-10, 11-5) was 3-5 in the Big Ten and on the wrong side of the NCAA Tournament bubble a month ago. A first-round bye in the Big Ten Tournament seemed highly unlikely.

Not anymore. One eight-game winning streak later, the unlikely has turned into a firm reality.
Iowa's 79-71 win over Michigan on Sunday locked up the third seed and first-round bye in the conference tournament, which will begin on Thursday in Indianapolis. The Hawkeyes appear to be bound for the NCAA Tournament for the fifth-straight year.

And Iowa has done all that without star guard Jaime Printy, who tore her ACL on Feb. 2 against Wisconsin.

The Hawkeyes have proven they can win games without Printy and have essentially rolled through the season since she has been out. Iowa has shot 42.8 percent in her absence and has received several notable performances over the last four weeks.

Senior point guard Kamille Wahlin continues to lead the team in every contest. She controls the tempo of the game — as she did on Sunday, when she recorded 19 points and 5 assists — and the rest of the roster follows.

Sam Logic overcame the freshman mistakes she made early on in Big Ten play, and she has outplayed everyone in her path. Logic recorded a triple-double against Michigan and has six double-doubles this year, including four in a row.

Fellow freshman Melissa Dixon has stepped into Printy's starting spot with ease. Dixon's 22 points on Sunday were a career high, and teams still fail to defend her on the perimeter.

Morgan Johnson is averaging a quiet 15 points and 2 blocks per game, too.

But back to that eight-game winning streak, which has given Iowa the most momentum going into the Big Ten Tournament of any team in the conference — even more than conference champion Penn State, which ended its season on a seven-game run of victories.

Six of those wins have come without Printy, further establishing head coach Lisa Bluder's squad as a force to be reckoned with starting this Friday. Iowa will play the winner of the Thursday game between Nebraska and Northwestern.

A month ago, many doubts surrounded this Iowa team. Now, the only thing in question should be if the Hawkeyes are one of the favorites to win the conference tourney.

Eight-straight wins will make that happen — and a little belief doesn't hurt, either.

"At the end of January, our coaches are sitting there thinking, 'You know, we can do this,' " Bluder said following Sunday's win. "… You kind of don't want to tell anybody, because they're going to laugh at you at that point, but this team always believed it. When we were sitting there at the end of January, we looked at our schedule and we really felt as a team [that] we could do this."

And they have. Look out, Big Ten.

Iowa is coming in hot.


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