Big Ten Tournament: Iowa underperformed when it mattered most

BY BEN WOLFSON | MARCH 05, 2012 6:30 AM

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INDIANAPOLIS — The Iowa women's basketball team came into the Big Ten Tournament with arguably the most momentum of any team in the conference.

The Hawkeyes had won eight-straight games, six of which had come without leading scorer Jaime Printy. They received a gift in the first half of their quarterfinal matchup with No. 24 Nebraska when foul trouble held Cornhusker forward Jordan Hooper to two minutes of playing time.

But the Hawkeyes only had a 3-point lead heading into halftime — and the wheels fell off in the second half.

Nebraska made back-to-back-to-back 3-pointers to take the lead in the second stanza and ended up beating Iowa, 80-68.

Head coach Lisa Bluder seemed to be trying to wrap her head around the 12-point loss as she and senior guard Kamille Wahlin spoke to the media after the game on March 2. A reporter asked Wahlin if she was concerned about playing in the NCAA Tournament because Iowa was "1-6 against ranked teams." Bluder jumped in to interject.

"I think we're 2-6 — wins over St. Johns and Purdue," Bluder said. "I'm not taking any of those away from us. Sorry."

Regardless, Iowa's inability to perform the entire 40 minutes against ranked teams has been a recurring problem this year.

Iowa was in Columbus to face then-No. 12 Ohio State on Jan. 2. The Black and Gold jumped out to a 15-point first-half lead with five minutes left. It looked like smooth sailing for Iowa and a chance to get a statement win on the road. The Buckeyes closed the half on a 17-3 run, and went into halftime only down by 1. The second half was all Ohio State, which won, 84-71.

Iowa came out hot in the first half against the Huskers in Indianapolis. Wahlin and freshman Sam Logic paced the Hawkeyes before Husker guard Lindsey Moore drained a half-court 3 to send Nebraska into half only down 3.

"They just seemed to be a team where they step up at the right moments," Wahlin said after the game. "It's one of those things where we knew it was coming in the second half. We knew in the locker room. We said, 'Hey — we've got to continue to play hard, continue to battle.' "

But that didn't happen as Iowa failed to make adjustments in the second act.

Logic and fellow freshman Melissa Dixon struggled after being two of the team's best players during the eight-game winning streak. Dixon finished with 8 points and failed to live up to her reputation as the Hawkeyes' best perimeter defender. The freshman wasn't able to force Moore into taking bad shots; Moore finished with 26 points on 10-for-15 shooting and was able to get anywhere she wanted on the floor.

Logic said the team knew the Huskers would hit shots.

"We just had to bounce back from it, and we just didn't this time," she said.

Watching the second half against Nebraska raises concerns about how Iowa will perform in the NCAA Tournament. The team was unable to make adjustments when it mattered, even though several players admitted they had anticipated Nebraska's game plan.

Iowa won't go far in the NCAA Tournament if its second-half play is repeated against ranked teams.
"We didn't step up in the second half," Wahlin said. "It's one of those things where we still have to learn from those top teams and learn how they play … [the loss] is one of those things where you can't focus on it too much, but you have to learn from it more than anything."

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