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Women’s Basketball: Iowa’s offense perks up in time to down Northwestern

Jonah L. Rosenblum

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For 15 minutes on Sunday afternoon, Welsh-Ryan Arena felt more like Carver-Hawkeye Arena.

As Iowa drained shot after shot, a boisterous contingent of fans sporting black and yellow roared their approval. And they had a lot to cheer about as the Hawkeyes put up 63 points in the second half of their 86-75 victory over Northwestern.

Iowa averages 70 points a game, so scoring 63 points in a half was no small feat for the Hawkeyes.

“We started to hit some shots,” Iowa forward Kelly Krei said. “Once you start hitting shots, everyone’s confidence is elevated. That’s what happened tonight.”

The Iowa crowd, located mostly behind the visitors’ bench, appreciated the unprecedented offensive display.

“We have great fans in Iowa City, and obviously they traveled well,” Krei said. “They just know basketball. They get excited. It really helps our confidence, knowing we have someone on the road cheering for us.”

The Wildcats silenced the Hawkeyes’ faithful early, holding Iowa to just 29 percent shooting from the field in the first half.

“We contested every shot every time,” senior point guard Beth Marshall said. “We moved on the flight of the ball. We had a hand in shooters’ faces, hustling down loose balls and rebounds, and we didn’t do that in the second half.”

According to Krei, the Hawkeyes were challenged in the locker room and responded in kind.

“I just thought that we could play with a little more energy and a little more fight than we had in the first half,” Iowa coach Lisa Bluder said. “In the second half, we turned the tables a little bit.”

The Hawkeyes hit their first six shots of the second half and never looked back. Iowa ended up shooting 70 percent in the second half, including 7-of-10 from behind the arc.

Success from 3-point range helped the Hawkeyes quickly slice into the Cats’ lead. Back-to-back three pointers by Krei and guard Kamille Wahlin sparked a 16-0 Iowa run.

NU led 41-30 with 16:45 remaining in the game. Just four-and-a-half minutes later, Iowa already had a five-point lead.

“So much of it is confidence,” Bluder said. “You get the ball rolling, and it gets bigger and bigger as it goes down the hill, and that’s kind of the way it is with shooting, too. You get confident when things are going well and they were going well for us.”

Krei gave the Cats fits in the second half, scoring 17 of her 20 points in the final 20 minutes.

Iowa guard Kachine Alexander also came alive in the second half. After scoring just three points in the first half, the senior hit six-of-seven shots in the final stanza.

“Kach is a senior, and she always has that emotional swing,” Krei said. “Kach is just our leader. She does a good job of getting everyone going.”

While the Hawkeyes had plenty to celebrate after Sunday’s game, the Cats were left bewildered.

“It’s very frustrating because we saw our potential in the first half and didn’t come out for the last 20 minutes like we should have,” Marshall said.

And as someone who has seen her fair share of Big Ten basketball, senior center Amy Jaeschke said her team needs to maintain the same level of play from the opening tip to the final buzzer.

“It’s about putting a 40-minute effort together,” Jaeschke said. “When it comes to February you have to be desperate to play all 40 minutes.”