The Iowa women’s basketball team had some pretty high hopes this season. And those hopes included another NCAA Tournament berth, and they even wanted to hoist the conference championship trophy, too.
While the NCAA Tournament berth is still likely, Iowa’s hopes for a conference championship were virtually dashed on Sunday when Penn State came into Carver Hawkeye Arena in Iowa City and left with 82-75 win over No. 20 Iowa.
“Penn State is a good team,” Iowa head coach Lisa Bluder said. “They showed why they are No. 1 in our conference. They can score at will. They are very, very hard to defend because of their quickness, athleticiscm and rebounding.”
The Hawks will likely drop out of the top 25 rankings this week with two losses. The Hawks are now 17-7 on the season and 5-6 in Big Ten Conference play, while Penn State improves to 20-5 overall and 9-2 in the league.
“We need to take each game and try to win one at a time,” Bluder said. “That is possible. We can do that. But we need to focus on one at a time. Our goal is to get that first-round bye in the Big Ten Conference Tournament. That has to be our focus at this point.”
The game wasn’t all disappointed for Iowa fans.
Iowa senior Kachine Alexander did reach an big milestone in the contest when she came away with her 300th career assist. She is now the first player in Iowa history and fifth player in Big Ten Conference history to have 1,000 career points, 800 career rebounds and 300 career assists.
She finished Sunday’s game with 12 points, 17 rebounds and six assists, which was her seventh double-double of the season and 31st for her career.
“That is amazing for her to be able to do that for us,” Bluder said. “You want kids that want to compete. She’s done a great job. I am glad she is in a pretty special group of women with that recent development.”
Iowa trailed by 12 at halftime as Penn State dominated the boards. The Nittany Lions out-rebounded the Hawks by 11, scored 16 second-chance points and collected 24 points from its bench in the win. Another advantage came at the foul line, where Penn State was 20-of-25 and Iowa was just 11-of-19.
“We just couldn’t keep them off the boards,” Bluder said. “We gave up way too many second-chance opportunities, too many points in transition and unfortunately that resulted in the loss today.”
The Hawks did hit 10 3-pointers in the game. Kamille Wahlin buried six of them, which ties a school record for most 3-pointers in a game at Carver Hawkeye Arena. Wahlin scored a team-high 24 points on the night and scored the 1,000th point of her career in the game as well.
Sophomore Jaime Printy added 20 points, four rebounds and four assists for the Hawks, while junior Kelly Krei added 10 points.
Alex Bentley led all scorers with 25 points for Penn State, and she also dished out five assists. Maggie Lucas scored 18 points off the bench, while Mia Nickersen had 13 points and 15 rebounds for the Nittany Lions.
“We work on guarding the dribble drive every day in practice, but it has got to be more of a focus in games,” Bluder said. “We pointed that out as a key to winning today. We wanted to contain their pentration. Alex Bentley is very, very good at getting to the hoop. She is hard to defend.”