Iowa women's basketball opens season in NIT


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There’s a lot to learn when practicing with the Big Ten’s best center for a whole season. Bethany Doolittle said the most important aspect she picked up from Iowa women’s basketball senior Morgan Johnson last year was the mentality of a winner.

She’ll be able to display that mentality at 5:30 p.m. today, when she lines up alongside Johnson as a power forward. The Hawkeyes will play host to Northern Illinois in the first-round of the WNIT in Carver-Hawkeye Arena.

“I’m just really excited to play,” Doolittle said. “I’ve never played this position, but I’ve put in the time during practice, and I’ve gotten better every day … I’m just really excited to get the opportunity to play this new position and see where it goes.”

If the exhibition against Quincy last weekend was any indication of how both players will perform, head coach Lisa Bluder will be all smiles. Doolittle racked up 8 points, gathered 4 boards, and blocked 2 shots against Quincy. Johnson’s stat line was eerily similar: the senior nearly tallied a double-double, scoring 12 and tallying 9 rebounds.

But tonight’s game has true meaning to it. The use of both Johnson and Doolittle will give Iowa an edge in size over Northern Illinois.

Bluder plans on taking advantage of Johnson and Doolittle — 6-5 and 6-4, respectively — to create a dominant presence both in the paint and around the perimeter.

Tonight also marks the opening game of the 2012-13 Iowa women’s basketball season — one that will begin without senior guard Jaime Printy. Melissa Dixon, who paced the Hawkeyes with 28 points in the exhibition, will take her spot.

A lot of Dixon’s output has come from outside the 3-point line. She nailed 7-of-11 from behind the arc against Quincy. This not only instilled confidence in the sophomore, it helped persuade Bluder that early treys in the game aren’t necessarily a bad thing, so long as they are meaningful.

“If it’s the right player putting up the 3, we don’t mind that at all,” the 13-year head coach said. “Our style of play is if we have an open 3, we like to put them up.”

Dixon may be getting the starting nod, but Printy will still get some time off the bench, Bluder said. The senior ran some half-court situations during practice this week to help loosen up her injured hamstring. Bluder said playing Printy in a real, live-game scenario will help to rebuild her captain’s confidence.

The senior herself radiated confidence when asked if she was ready for tonight’s season-opener, despite still nursing her injury. Printy was nearing 100 percent after tearing her ACL in her left knee last season before injuring her hamstring eight days ago.

She said she was fine with coming off the bench, if that was what Bluder decided. Getting playing time is all the senior is concerned about, because she knows it’ll help her get back into the rhythm of playing at full speed. Printy didn’t practice majority of this week.

For Printy and the two other seniors — Johnson and Trisha Nesbitt — this will be the last season-opening game in which they suit up in the Black and Gold. Printy knows this season will go by fast.

That alone is motivating her to just have fun this season and enjoy all of what she can.

“It’s going to be weird. I can’t believe we’re already seniors,” Printy said. “We just want to go out and have fun, and, hopefully, start the season out on the right note.”

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