Jan. 27, 2011
By ADAM MEIER
IOWA CITY, Iowa -- The 10th-ranked Michigan State Spartans strolled into Iowa City on Thursday night with just one loss in the Big Ten -- they left with two.
Head coach Lisa Bluder's 18th-ranked Hawkeyes avenged a last-second loss from two weeks ago to this same Spartan team, and this time triumphing, 66-64.
The heart-pumping victory improved Iowa's record to 16-5 overall and 4-4 in conference play, while Michigan State fell to 18-3 overall and 6-2 in the Big Ten.
"This is a big win for us," Bluder said. "We were very efficient with the ball when we had it, and I think that was a big difference. At the end of the game, I just think we were not to be denied."
The Hawkeyes shot 24 of 48 (50 percent) from the field while they held the Spartans to just 23 of 68 (34 percent) shooting overall.
In a game which could be touted as the game of the year to this point in Iowa's season, the senior leader, Kachine Alexander, had one of the best performances of her career. The Minnesota native scored 23 points on 9 of 14 shooting and grabbed 11 rebounds, compiling her sixth double-double of the season.
"It's a great win," Alexander said. "We have the two big powerhouses (Michigan State and Ohio State) out of the way now. We have the rest of the season to keep going now and winning on home court is a great confidence booster."
Trailing early in the first half, Alexander scored eight straight points for the Hawkeyes, including back-to-back three point plays -- one from beyond the arc and one the old fashioned way. Alexander's quick spurt tied the game at 12 with 15:53 left to play in the first half.
After allowing a 5-0 Spartan run, Iowa fought back, starting with a Jamie Printy coast-to-coast layup. A full-speed Kalli Hansen then executed a textbook wrap-around pass, finding Alexander underneath for the lay-in. Two Morgan Johnson free throws capped the Iowa run, giving the Hawkeyes an 18-17 lead with ten minutes remaining in the half.
Johnson ended the game with six points, but her presence was most felt on the defensive end, where she blocked four shots.
The Hawkeyes did everything well against the Spartans, except shoot free throws.
"I can't believe quite honestly that we won this game shooting that poorly from the free-throw line," Bluder said. "They had 20 more shot attempts than we did, but we were very efficient."
Junior Kamille Wahlin's strong end to the half kept the Hawkeyes close in the rear-view. Wahlin tallied all eight of her points in the final 10 minutes of the half, including a step-back three which tied the game at 31 with 1:22 left.
With halftime nearing, Wahlin dished the ball off to Hansen, who nailed a 3-pointer with eight seconds on the clock, giving the Hawkeyes a 35-32 lead at the break.
As entertaining as the first half was, the second half of this Big Ten battle was even more thrilling.
The game went back and forth until the Spartans grabbed the momentum and extended their lead to 50-44 with nine minutes to go in the contest.
That is when the game took an abrupt shift.
An Alexander reverse layup and three Kelly Krei free-throws brought the Hawkeyes to within a point with 7:33 to go. The next trip down, Printy pulled up at the top of the key from well behind the men's 3-point line and drained it. That shot gave Iowa a 52-50 lead and brought the crowd to its feet.
The Spartans tied the game back up shortly after, but Krei promptly hit a 3 of her own. Back-to-back Alexander layups gave the Hawkeyes a 59-54 lead with just over five minutes remaining.
Johnson hit a timely baseline jumper and Alexander followed with another penetrating layup to bring the score to 63-59.
With just under a minute left in the game and Iowa leading 63-61, Krei hit one of the biggest shots of her career, swishing a 3 from the corner to put the Hawkeyes ahead by five.
"It looked good," Krei grinned. "My shot had been a little off earlier in the game. But you just have to take every shot one shot at a time and I thought I did that tonight."
Trailing by two with 5.1 seconds left on the clock, Michigan State had a chance to tie or win. A missed jumper by Kalisha Keane and two missed put-backs sealed the emotional and nail-biting win for the Hawkeyes.
"It was the same exact spot that she put it up from last time, Bluder said about Keane, who hit the game winner in the last meeting. "I think Kash got a fingernail on it this time."
Printy had an 11-point, six-rebound and four-assist performance, while Wahlin added four rebounds and six assists to her eight point output.
Iowa's next game is Sunday, Jan. 30, against Illinois in Champaign. Tipoff is scheduled for 2 p.m.
|Iowa 66, Michigan State 64||1st||2nd||Final|
|No. 10 Michigan State (18-3, 6-2)||32||32||64|
|No. 18 Iowa (16-5, 4-4)||35||31||66|
| Points: Brittney Thomas (Michigan State) 17 | Kachine Alexander (Iowa) 23
|Rebounds: Lykendra Johnson (Michigan State) 15 | Kachine Alexander (Iowa) 11|
|Assists: Brittney Thomas (Michigan State) 5 | Kamille Wahlin (Iowa) 6|