Iowa Women Take Hawkeye Challenge Title

The Iowa Women's Basketball team raced past visiting Missouri for a 75-54 victory in the Hawkeye Challenge Championship game Saturday at Carver-Hawkeye Arena. Junior guard Crystal Smith, who grabbed MVP honors, scored a career-high 26 in the final. Read what Smith, Coach Lisa Bluder and Jamie Cavey had to say about the game and get news from the contest in this Quotes and Notes Package we're making free to all to show the type of coverage we give our subscribers all season long.



Opening Statement -

It feels good for a number of reasons - to start out the year 2-0; to keep the trophy at home after losing it last year; and to regroup of out loss to Missouri last year.

I know that Missouri lost a lot from last year's team. But we lost a lot, too.

We came out and had intense defense right off the bat. We took contro early and then we kept control throughout the game. We never really let them too much back in the game.

Crystal was spectacular. I don't know why anybody would not want to come to one of our basketball games just to watch her play. She shot the ball well. She had four steals to go with her great defensive effort. As a team, our defense was very good. We forced 25 turnovers. We held Missouri to 54 points. And that, after last year, is a real bright spot.

On the other side, we have up too many offensive rebounds in the second half. We did a good job rebounding in the first half. But we shot the ball well. We got to the free throw line a lot. And our freshmen continued to improve. Our freshmen got some quality minutes again. They're playing well for us. That's a great sign for the future of our program.

Coach, do you thing that some of the questions of whether or not Crystal could generate offense are being answered?

I thought that she was going to. From our preseason, our workouts, I was always confident that Crystal was going to generate offense. That's what was exciting about the beginning of our season was everybody knew about her defense but she had added the whole dimension to her game.

The biggest question mark was Abby. And I know it's only been two games. But Abby is really running our team well. She's confident. The team feels comfortable when she has the ball in her hands, her and Krista.

The rebound and outlet pass that Krista had in the first half, it was just incredible. It almost gave me chills to watch that play. You have a four and a five fastbreak off of a rebound. It was pretty amazing.

Does Krista just need to relax and take her time maybe on some of her putback attempts?

Yeah. She's not converting them right now. But she does. She had in practice.

She's very strong going to the basket. When she came to the bench the last time, I said "Krista, those are all good shots. They will fall for you." They will fall for her.

Maybe some freshman nerves?

I think so. She's going to be very, very good for us. She's so strong. She's really truly one of the strongest post players I've ever coached, just physically strong.

How do you compare this team defensively to the last few teams that you've had?

It's kind of early to tell right now. I was pleased with our player defense today because we haven't spent as much time working on our player defense. Our intensity was there. Our communication was better than we've even done in practice.

We didn't have a lot of time to prepare for Missouri. I was really pleased with our team's effort on studying the scouting report, watching the highlight film, walking through in a short shootaround today and then executing the defense that we asked them to do during the game. They took that information and put it to play in the floor really well today.

I don't feel like Missouri beat us in any of their plays. I'd be surprised if they beat us on more than one or two of their plays.

For only the second game of the season, is this all you could have hoped for?

I wish we would have boxed out more in the second half. We gave up too many offensive rebounds. I'd like to see our turnovers go down. But considering it's this early, we did a pretty decent job.



Can you talk about the hot start you had and how it just kept going for you?

I just got out there and told myself that this is the championship game, go out there, play hard, play with intensity and let the game come to you. I guess that's what happened.

How do you approach the game differently offensively this year than last year?

Well, Chief (Kristi Faulkner) is not here anymore. I kind of feel like since she's gone it's my duty to step up; to be more confident with the ball; to shoot more; not only have the defense, but have that offense and aggressiveness, too. I came out and I didn't think about it, making a shot or missing a shot or doing something bad.

You look so much more comfortable shooting the ball this year as opposed to last year. Can you talk about how that's evolved for you?

It all comes down to you have to shoot more. That's what I did. I told myself, you know, I've got to step up. I got in and I shot every second that I could. It's just falling for me.



Can you talk about the development of you and Krista in the passing game?

We knew coming into this that Missouri was a bigger team. We knew that it was going to be a more difficult game. If we came out intense at the very beginning, it makes it that much easier to maintain that intensity throughout that half. That's what we did.

We came out intense. We had great passes at the beginning. We moved the ball really well.

Starting out 2-0 and beating a team that beat you last year, what does that do for you guys psychologically?

It does a lot for us. I was sitting by Morgan at the end and she goes "our team is really good." I was like, "Yeah, we look pretty good today." She was like, "I didn't know that we were this good."

She knows that we're good. It's just good to see it happen in the game. We do stuff in practice and then sometimes we never see it in a game.



ALL-TOURNAMENT: Iowa's Crystal Smith captured MVP honors after scoring a career-high 26 points (her previous best was 10) in the championship game. The junior was joined on the all-tournament team by teammates Jamie Cavey and Johanna Solverson, Danette Jones (Southern Illinois), LaToya Bond (Missouri) and Stephanie Raymond (Northern Illinois).

SHORT LEASH: Bluder wasted little time pulling freshman point guard Abby Emmert from the game after a poor choice of shot selection. The first-year player from Winterset drove into a double team and forced up an attempt midway through the first half. She sat for about six minutes.

Bluder praised her freshman in the postgame for having a strong tournament.

COACH ON THE FLOOR: Smith does a great job of teaching on the floor during breaks in the action. On several occasions, she pulled aside freshman Krista VandeVenter to explain nuances of the triangle offense. Smith received some counseling from injured PG Lindsey Richards during halftime.

FIRED UP: Bluder showed as much animation as you'll see out of the veteran coach when she felt the referees were allowing the Tigers to rough up guard Jenna Armstrong. Bluder was seen giving an earful to an official as he ran past the Iowa bench.

SPARKPLUG: Smith played a lot of minutes at point guard against the suffocating person-to-person Missouri defense on Saturday. Late in the first half, Bluder ran a clearout play for Smith, who drove the lane, stuck the short pull-up J and drew the foul.

FREEBIE: Fans were welcomed into Carver-Hawkeye Arena for free on Saturday. The crowd of several thousand voiced its affinity for the home team as many folks dipped into the warmth before watching Iowa football take on Wisconsin.

SHAPING UP: The transformation of Jamie Cavey from her freshman season to her final campaign has been amazing. The senior showed struggled with stamina upon her arrival at Iowa, but she showed superb conditioning this weekend, getting up and down the floor and doing a stellar job of fronting the post.

REBOUND HOUND: As I said in the previous notebook, Krista VandeVenter attacks the backboards like she's going after the last biscuit at the table. She possesses a unique combination of strength and quickness for a freshman. Look for this kid to be high on the school's all-time rebounding list by the time all is said and done.

She also will raise her scoring average significantly once she settles into the college game. She misses some easy putbacks that eventually will fall.

TIP-INS: Solverson twisted her ankle on a fastbreak drive midway through the second half. She received trainer assistance and had to come out for taping. She was replaced by Tiffany Reedy, who made one of two free throws…KCRG Channel-9 in Cedar Rapids sponsored the tournament but did not telecast either Iowa game…Smith took over the game in the second half, scoring 10 points - eight in a row - during a a four-minute stretch when Iowa built a 67-50 lead with five minutes to go…late in the game, Bluder had all four of her freshmen - Emmert, VanderVenter, Stacy Schlapkohl and Jenee Graham - on the floor together for the final four minutes.

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