Hawkeye women's basketball leans on free-throw performance

BY BEN ROSS | NOVEMBER 12, 2012 6:30 AM

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The Iowa women’s basketball team advanced to the semifinals of the preseason WNIT Suunday afternoon with a 74-64 victory over the Illinois State Redbirds.

The Hawkeyes — playing with fewer than 40 hours of rest between WNIT games — looked sluggish at the beginning of the game and continued to play at low levels throughout the contest, committing 23 turnovers and shooting below 40 percent from the field.

But the Hawkeyes persevered and dominated a facet of the game that can best be controlled by individual players: free throws.

The Black and Gold attempted 41 free throws throughout the game, sinking 32. That falls just one short of the school record of 33 free shots made. Iowa’s record of free throws attempted stands at 49.

“I think we have a lot of confidence with our free-throw shooting,” Iowa head coach Lisa Bluder said. “Last year we were the fourth-best team in America in free-throw shooting, so I think it’s something we have a lot of confidence in doing.”

Senior center and preseason All-Big Ten selection Morgan Johnson led the way for the Hawkeyes at the line, converting 12 of her 13 shots. She finished the day with 24 points, a team high. Johnson also beat her previous record of free throws made and attempted in a game. She went 11-of-12 at free throws in a contest last season against Bradley.

Johnson didn’t say she was particularly happy with her 11 added points from free-throw shooting; she was just glad she topped her shooting averages from past seasons. The Platte City, Mo., native shot 73 percent from the line last season.

“To be able to shoot better than that tonight was really exciting for me,” she said. “I’ve been shooting better at practice lately, so that’s been an improvement, and I hope to just keep that, maintain that.”

The flow of the game was clearly affected by the number of free throws taken by both sides; there were 62 foul shots in the contest. Bluder also said the 27 fouls committed by the Redbirds made it hard for either team to gain any momentum.

“It was just a game where there were so many fouls called that I don’t think any team really could get in the thick of things,” Bluder said. “So it really became a free-throw shooting contest.”

Starting guard Theairra Taylor echoed her coach’s comments, saying the slow pace was something that players can become accustomed to as the free throws provide extra opportunities to catch their breath.

“[Free throws] slowed down the rhythm, but at least we were able to catch up and save our legs a little bit,” Taylor said. “They were calling it on both ends, and I mean, it slowed down the pace, but we got used to it.”

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