FREEPORT, BAHAMAS -- Oklahoma traveled to the Junkanoo Jam in the Bahamas as the favorite to win the tournament. Iowa came to the same place with a strong defense and a two-game winning streak. When Saturday's championship game was over, it was the Hawkeyes wearin' the Bahama-like smiles.
Riding the strong shoulders of Jamie Cavey, Crystal Smith, and Krista VandeVenter, Iowa won its showdown with the nationally ranked Sooners, 54-47. And, oh yeah, the Hawkeyes also brought their "A-Game" when it came to defense.
The victory pushed Iowa's record to a perfect four wins in four games. The Hawkeyes haven't started a season with four wins since winning its first seven games in 1995-96, a year that ended with Iowa losing to Vanderbilt in the semifinal game of the NCAA Mideast Regional. Iowa's '95-96 team had a 27-4 overall record and a brilliant 15-1 mark in Big Ten Conference play.
Iowa entertains Iowa State Wednesday at 7 p.m. in the next event in the new Hy-Vee Cy-Hawk Series.
The Hawkeyes came out firing, grabbing the lead for good when Johanna Solverson sank a three-pointer to put the UI up, 7-5, at 15:19. Six minutes later Iowa's margin grew to double-digits when Morgan Kasperek dropped in a layup. The lead reached 13 when Solverson sank a jumper with just more than six minutes to play before intermission.
Oklahoma trimmed Iowa's eight-point halftime lead to four when Lauren Shoush sank a three-point basket to pull the Sooners to 40-36 at the 8:51 mark of the second stanza. A pair of free throws 30 seconds later by Becky Preston trimmed Iowa's margin to 41-38.
Iowa went on a 12-4 run with the final bucket coming on a layup by VandeVenter that gave the Hawkeyes a 10-point lead and the game.
Cavey scored a game-high 12 points. Smith added 11 and seven rebounds, and VandeVenter a game-high 11 boards.
Iowa held the high-powered Sooners to just 24 percent from the field for the game (16 of 67) and forced OU into 17 turnovers.
"I'd like to think our defense had a little to do with that," Bluder said about OU's 47 total points, a total that fell far below the Sooners usual 80-plus points a game.
"We left it all on the floor tonight. I couldn't be more proud of how we played. I don't think we were taken very seriously. We proved the simple fact that you have to take every opponent seriously," Bluder added.
The Junkaroo Jam title follows fast on the heels of Iowa's victory in last week's KCRG-TV9 Hawkeye Championship. The Hawkeyes will have little time to celebrate, however. Iowa entertains Iowa State in the next event in the new Hy-Vee Cy-Hawk Series Wednesday at 7 p.m. inside Carver-Hawkeye Arena.
Bluder chuckled afterward about the play of her young team. Iowa has four freshman on its roster of 12. "They're too young to know any better. They're too young to know that you don't beat a nationally ranked Oklahoma team," she laughed.
Bluder also likes that fact that among Iowa's victims thus far in 2004-05 are two Big 12 Conference teams, one SEC squad and one from the Valley. "That's pretty good. We're playing pretty good basketball against some pretty good competition," Bluder said.
Smith was named the tournament's most valuable player. "This game is a great opportunity for our team because it shows how good we could be and that we are capable of playing with some of the best teams in the country," she said.
"I think the keys to victory were our defensive intensity and keeping our composure when Oklahoma made runs. Being named MVP was a great honor and I'm glad I had an opportunity to share this honor with my teammates."
"We realized heading into the game that it was going to be a difficult and probably not the prettiest, but we maintained our composure throughout the game. These two victories are great and give us momentum in the games to come," said Cavey, who was named to the all-tournament team.
Box score: http://hawkeyesports.collegesports.com/sports/w-baskbl/stats/112704aaa.html