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Notebook: Women's hoops can take advantage of tourney bye

BY MATT COZZI | FEBRUARY 28, 2012 6:30 AM

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The Iowa women's basketball team will be in a familiar position when it steps onto the hardwood of Bankers Life Field House on Friday.

This is the fifth-straight year Iowa has received a top-four seed in the Big Ten Tournament, which will begin this week in Indianapolis. Iowa received the No. 3 seed after a win over Michigan on Sunday, locking down a bye.

The bye is significant because the Black and Gold won't have to play in the first round; instead, they'll play their first game in the second round of the tournament against either Nebraska or Northwestern.

"It's always kind of the standard that this program has — to make the NCAA Tournament and to be at the top of the Big Ten," senior Kamille Wahlin said. "When the season started out, it wasn't like we hadn't been there before. I just kept telling the team, 'Hey, we've been in these positions. As long as we stick to the game plan and keep believing in the coaches, things are going to turn around for us.' "
Wahlin and Company turned the season outlook around in a big way.

The eight-game winning streak to close the regular season and resulting bye could ultimately push the Hawkeyes — who were destined for a much lower seed four weeks ago — into contention for a conference tournament title.

Freshman Melissa Dixon — who scored a career-high 22 points and has started six games in place of injured star Jaime Printy — seems confident heading into postseason play.

"It's been incredible," Dixon said. "We've all believed in each other just like coach [Lisa Bluder] said, and to continue this for our seniors has been huge. They've been great role models and leaders all year long, so I'm just glad we can go out like this."

Iowa had an early exit in last year's Big Ten tourney, following a bye with a loss to Ohio State in the second round. Bluder's squad also lost to the Buckeyes in the 2010 championship game.

If the Hawkeyes want to break through this week in Indianapolis, they'll need to rely on starters Wahlin, Dixon, Sam Logic, Kelly Krei, and Morgan Johnson.

Iowa hasn't received much production from the bench — reserves Theairra Taylor, Kalli Hansen, and Bethany Doolittle combined for 5 points on Sunday, for example — so the starters have been creating most of the offense during the recent stretch.

Iowa will likely continue to count on its starting lineup rather than the supporting cast, so the bye will give the Hawkeyes an extra day to prepare. Now with a bye in hand and just three games to win the title, the quest for a title starts Friday in the second round of the Big Ten Tournament.

"It's three games now," Bluder said. "It's three games at the Big Ten Tournament, and we'll go one at a time."

Hawkeyes win All-Big Ten honors

Four Hawkeye players garnered all-conference recognition, the league office announced Monday night.

Johnson was named second team All-Big Ten by both the coaches and media. The junior center is averaging 15 points and 6.7 rebounds per game. Printy earned third team All-Big Ten by both voting parties. Printy averaged 16.9 points per game prior to her ACL injury.

Wahlin was named third team All-Big Ten by the coaches and was an honorable-mention selection by the media. The guard is averaging 15.3 points and 3.9 assists in Big Ten play. Fellow guard Logic was named to the conference's All-Freshman team. The Racine, Wis., native enters the postseason with four straight double-doubles, including a triple-double on Sunday against Michigan.


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