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Notebook: Johnson's development key for Iowa

BY BEN WOLFSON | FEBRUARY 29, 2012 6:30 AM

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The Iowa women's basketball team heads to Indianapolis as the No. 3 seed in week's Big Ten Tournament, and a large reason behind the Hawkeyes' success is their tallest player.

Junior center Morgan Johnson stands 6-5, and she has become into a force in the middle for the Hawkeyes in her third college season.

Johnson is averaging 15 points and almost 7 rebounds per game to go along with her 54 percent field-goal shooting.

Unlike her previous two seasons, Johnson has developed enough strength and confidence to push opponents around in the paint.

"Getting bigger and stronger was the main thing; I had to bulk up to hold my own and keep position," she said on Tuesday. "I find myself being able to push people out of the paint and hold my own ground more than I was."

Johnson often committed fouls while trying to block shots during her first two seasons, but she said she has realized she needs to stay in the game and help the team on both the offensive and defensive sides of the court.

"What Morgan had to change was the amount of contact and amount of physical style that's played not only in Division-I, but in the Big Ten," head coach Lisa Bluder said.

The Platte City, Mo., native worked on her jump shot during the summer, and she said she's confident about using it as a weapon in any situation.

Her big year caught the eye of her coaches and the rest of the conference; Johnson was named second-team All-Big Ten on Monday.

"When [Morgan] came in as a freshman, she was initiated, baptism by fire," Bluder said. "She came in here expecting to back up Jo Hamlin; [but Hamlin missed the season], and all of a sudden, she's thrown into a starting position right away in her freshman game."

Johnson suffers from tendinitis, and she normally arrives at Carver-Hawkeye Arena at least an hour before practice begins to treat her knees, back, and ankles. Her routine includes everything from having ultrasounds on her ankles to sitting in an ice tub.

She faces constant pain to play but said it doesn't bother her.

"To be able to play on the Big Ten stage, you have to do different things; part of my payment is a little bit of pain," Johnson said. "It's such a blessing to play at this level I'll accept that. The physicality of the Big Ten and playing here just overwhelms the negatives, and the pain I play through will always be tolerable."

Logic, Dixon share chemistry

Freshmen guards Sam Logic and Melissa Dixon knew each other well before they committed to Iowa; they played more than 30 games together on the same AAU team every summer during high school.

Their chemistry has continued to develop, especially after Dixon was thrust into the starting lineup alongside Logic when leading scorer Jaime Printy was lost for the season.

Dixon made a career-high 6 3-pointers and scored 22 points against Michigan on Sunday, and most of her looks were set up by Logic.

"I think it really does [help that we played together in high school]," Logic said. "We worked out together for a couple years, and just knowing each other's tendencies helps out a lot."

Logic ended the Michigan game with her first career triple-double, and she has matured into a floor leader for the Hawkeyes.

Her teammates have noticed.

"She's just more comfortable out there," senior Kamille Wahlin said. "She was thinking a bit too much; freshmen have the tendency to do that. Now, she's a lot more comfortable in her role and knows the offense a lot better."

Follow DI women's basketball reporter Ben Wolfson on Twitter.


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