Category archive: Iowa Hawkeyes
Florida Gulf Coast at USC Upstate: An otherwise light schedule just means more of the spotlight is available for an Atlantic Sun showdown between teams focused on regular-season glory. Florida Gulf Coast knocked off NCAA tournament regular East Tennessee State on Saturday in conference play and looks to secure another big road win here. USC Upstate dropped to 4-1 in conference play with a loss against Stetson on Saturday but has the league's leading scorer and rebounder in Chelsea McMillan (16.4 ppg, 10.2 rpg). Kelsey Jacobson needed just 10 shots to lead Florida Gulf Coast with 21 points Saturday, hitting five of 10 3-pointers and all six of her free throws.
West Virginia at Marquette: With apologies to St. Bonaventure, a good team with a distinctive style, this is the biggest true road test to date for No. 7 West Virginia. Before games against Seton Hall and Cincinnati last week, coach Mike Carey said the team was still adjusting to having Sarah Miles back. And while the Mountaineers didn't need anything close to perfection to rout both foes, 40 turnovers, including seven from Miles, suggests the adjustment continues. For Marquette, having the Angel Robinson who helped spark Saturday's double-overtime upset at Georgetown (18 points, eight rebounds, seven assists, three turnovers) will be critical. She's just 8-of-34 from the field with 10 turnovers in three career games against the Mountaineers.
Illinois State at Missouri State: With Creighton off to a 3-0 start in Missouri Valley play and looking strong, neither of these teams wants to be saddled so early with a second league loss. Sophomore forward Christina Shorter, last season's MVC Freshman of the Year, led the Bears in each of their first two conference wins, scoring a total of 40 points in those games. But she attempted just seven shots to go with four fouls in 22 minutes in an 80-69 loss at Northern Iowa last week.
TCU at Wyoming: The Cowgirls effectively put all their eggs in the conference basket by playing a weak early schedule, but the strategy seems to be working thus far. Wyoming's Aubrey Vandiver put up 24 points in Saturday's win at New Mexico, and a win in Albuquerque is worth something, no matter what kind of season the Lobos are having. TCU has four wins in a row since a heartbreaking last-second loss against Georgia, including a 49-47 road win at San Diego State on Wednesday. Helena Sverrisdottir became TCU's all-time assists leader in Saturday's win over UNLV, totaling 24 points, seven rebounds and seven steals to go with her six assists.
Texas A&M at Oklahoma State: Has reality set in for No. 25 Oklahoma State, which opened Big 12 play Sunday with a 63-45 loss at Kansas State? The Cowgirls head to Baylor after Wednesday's game against the Aggies, so it's going to take some work to avoid an 0-3 league start after cracking the Top 25 with a 12-1 start to the season. No. 5 Texas A&M, on the other hand, hasn't won by fewer than 25 points since a loss at Duke early in December. During that seven-game stretch, point guard Sydney Colson has 52 assists against just 12 turnovers.
Louisville at Notre Dame: Louisville plays at No. 12 Notre Dame on Wednesday and at No. 2 Connecticut on Saturday, a road trip that could only be less appealing if it came with a layover in Vladivostok. But the game in South Bend is big, both as a test of where the Cardinals fit in the Big East table after a 3-0 league start and whether Notre Dame builds off or wallows in Saturday's heartbreaker against Connecticut. Monique Reid has been on fire of late for the Cardinals, scoring 20 or more in three consecutive games, including 24 points in a win over St. John's on Tuesday and 29 points against Pitt on Sunday.
Iowa at Michigan State: It's the second week of January, and only three Big Ten teams own winning records in conference play, so 3-0 versus 2-2 qualifies as a big deal, especially when it's No. 13 Michigan State and No. 22 Iowa in possession of those records. The Spartans obliterated Wisconsin and Michigan on the boards in wins last week and lead the Big Ten in rebounding margin, but the Hawkeyes are second in the category. In two games against Iowa last season, Michigan State totaled just nine second-chance points and was outrebounded by 17. The Hawkeyes won both games.
Oregon at USC: The Ducks bounced back from a rough opening weekend of conference play with wins at home against Washington and Washington State, but Paul Westhead's team wasn't exactly dominant on the stat sheet in either victory. If Oregon is going to be any sort of factor in the league, it needs to win on the road outside the Pacific Northwest -- and USC is at least a better bet for that than Stanford or UCLA. On the flip side, if USC's Briana Gilbreath, Ashley Corral and Jacki Gemelos can't get their shot back on track against a defense allowing 48.5 percent shooting in four Pac-10 games, the Women of Troy might have reason to worry.
Tennessee at Florida: Is this a potential game or a potential rout? It depends on which Florida you believe is the real deal. The Gators are 8-0 at home, including noteworthy victories against Charlotte, Old Dominion and Arkansas. They're just 1-5 in true road games, although the one came in Sunday's win at South Carolina, in which the Gators shot 56.5 percent. One thing that should worry Florida fans is that their team has more turnovers than the opponent in all three SEC games thus far. If No. 6 Tennessee has a weakness, it might be its propensity for turnovers (see: Georgetown). But 20 turnovers won't hurt the Lady Vols if they force 30.
Duke at Florida State: No. 3 Duke had plenty of headline performances last week, including Chelsea Gray's fortunate "shot" to beat Kentucky, and a pair of big scoring nights from Jasmine Thomas against the Wildcats and Maryland. But don't overlook Tricia Liston's seemingly small supporting role. Liston hit three of seven 3-point attempts in the wins, one more than the total long-distance contributions of every other Duke player not named Jasmine Thomas. While the 3-point line was largely a barren wasteland for the Blue Devils last season, it's now home to a number of role players -- including Liston, Gray, Shay Selby and Kathleen Scheer -- who can play the role of X factor on a given day.
Kachine Alexander is a singular talent, but it's as much the collection of talent around her at Iowa as her particular skills that make the Hawkeyes a team to watch this season.
Meet Kamille Wahlin and Jaime Printy, for whom the label "role players" lacks a little something.
A better label for each of Alexander's backcourt mates? Let's go with roles players.
"They're both very confident, very level-headed competitors," Iowa coach Lisa Bluder said. "All three of those guards, they play so well together, and they really enjoy being on the floor together."
Iowa retooled its offense last season, shifting to a more up-tempo, read-and-react style after the graduations of Wendy Ausdemore, Megan Skouby and JoAnn Hamlin, all players with good size, as well as point guard Kristi Smith. It was partly a philosophical shift on the part of the coaches to incorporate elements that opponents had used against them, but also an adjustment to make the best use of a young roster with good shooters and less than plentiful size.
It wasn't exactly Paul Westhead coming to Oregon, but the 58 field-goal attempts per game the Hawkeyes put up last season were the program's most since 2003-04, and the 269 3-pointers they made and 729 they attempted blew away the previous single-season records.
A sophomore and a freshman, respectively, Wahlin and Printy were the key players in the latter surge. Wahlin matched Lindsey Meder's single-season record with 84 3-pointers, while Printy had 82 of her own. But it didn't stop there. Along with Alexander, both Wahlin (ninth) and Printy (15th) ranked among the Big Ten's leaders in assists, the only trio to make the top 15. They also managed to get to the free-throw line 145 times, hitting 88 percent of those attempts.
"If you're just a 3-point shooter, you're pretty easy to guard," Bluder said. "What makes them so dangerous is unbelievable shot range, but they can put it on the floor and take it to the rim as well as anybody . They're so dangerous, too, because they're excellent free-throw shooters, so if you foul them along the way, they're going to make you pay for it at the line."
For roughly a month early in the season, they were filling all those roles -- scorer, distributor, shooter -- without Alexander, who missed seven games with a stress fracture in her leg.
On paper, an 81-70 win at Northern Iowa last November doesn't look like much now, especially for a team with aspirations beyond last season's second-round run in the NCAA tournament. But without Alexander, Iowa trailed by three points at the break in that game before 21 second-half points from Wahlin, part of a career-high 33 points, helped secure the win.
Iowa struggled at times during Alexander's absence, but the responsibility placed on both young guards during those weeks turned complementary players into complementary stars.
"I definitely saw a change in Kamille, as far as leadership," Alexander said. "Everyone kind of depended on me to be the leader on the floor, make sure everyone was OK, and Kamille was kind of like a shyer version of that. But when I was out, Kamille had to step up to that role."
The final piece of the puzzle is defense. Iowa needs its young guards to complement Alexander, a member of the Big Ten all-defensive team. That part wasn't there last season, when opponents shot better than 40 percent and averaged nearly 67 points against the Hawkeyes. But if Printy is any indication, things might change this season.
"I'm probably more pleased with her development over the summer than anybody," Bluder said. "I like to tease her that she found a defensive stance, and it's really true. She laughs that she never had to play defense in high school, and she probably didn't. Here, she obviously has to do that. And it was a whirlwind last year, trying to learn how to do all this, get physically strong enough to stay in a stance and be able to physically handle the defensive style. But she has done it. She has embraced it, and now she is doing a great job defensively.
"I can't believe how much of a better defensive player she is."
What else do you expect from a roles player?